Hoàng Anh Gia Lai's striker Nguyễn Công Phượng (centre) dribbles upfield against Nam Định last season. The two teams will kick-off the V.Leauge 1 opener at Thiên Trường Stadium on February 19. Photo vov.vn
HÀ NỘI — After a longer-than-usual wait, domestic football will finally return to Việt Nam on February 19 as Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) meet Nam Định in the opening match of the V.League 1 2022 season.
The Việt Nam Professional Football Company (VPF) organised a draw for the national tournament in Hà Nội on Friday.
The national premier tournament will have 13 teams competing in a round-robin, two-leg, home and away format.
Whoever is crowned champions on November 20 will walk away with a purse of VNĐ3 billion (US$132,000). The bottom-placed team will be relegated to V.League 2 next season.
It will be a tough opening weekend for HAGL, who were top of the table when last season was cancelled. They will be away to Nam Định, who are not the most consistent team but have a reputation of being occasional giant-killers at Thiên Trường Stadium in recent years.
In their last two meetings, the former champions lost 2-0 at the National Cup in 2020 and drew 0-0 at the V.League 1 in 2019.
Last year, Nam Định made Thiên Trường a nightmare for powerful teams like Hà Nội FC, former champion Sông Lam Nghệ An (SLNA) and title favourite's HCM City.
The other matches of the opening weekend will be Hà Nội and Thanh Hóa; Bình Định and Viettel; SLNA and Bình Dương; SHB Đà Nẵng and Sài Gòn, and Hồng Lĩnh Hà Tĩnh and Hải Phòng.
At Friday's draw, VPF also announced the schedules for the V.League 2 and the National Cup.
The V.League 2, which has 12 clubs, will begin on March 5. The top two teams will jump to the V.League 1 and the winning team will secure a VNĐ1 billion ($44,100) bonus. There is also one relegation spot for the bottom team.
The National Cup will see all V.League 1 and V.League 2 clubs competing for the cup. They will compete in a knock-out format tournament that kicks off on April 6.
The 2021 season was cancelled because of the pandemic and, for the first time, no team was crowned champion in any league. As the result, there will be no Super Cup match between the V.League 1 champions and National Cup winner this year.
VPF have this year made plans for the tournament to adapt to any further COVID complications.
To improve the quality of the matches and the eligibility of COVID-19 substitute plans, clubs are allowed to register 35 players, five more than previously. Coaches can also sign up to four players to improve their line-up during the season's break, instead of three as in the past.
In the V.League 1, teams can register three foreign players and one Vietnamese player of foreign origin. V.League 2 teams can only have one Vietnamese player of foreign origin.
Động Lực Group has become sponsor of the three domestic tournaments, which was announced at a ceremony in Hà Nội on Friday.
The group is a familiar brand name in Việt Nam and has supported various sport tournaments and teams since 2003.
Động Lực will deliver balls of FIFA quality for competitions and training, as well as kit and sportswear for all referees, referee assistants and working staff.
Over the weekend, Hà Nội FC introduced their second foreign player, Serbian Djuro Zec, purchased for 700,000 euros (US$796,000), according to Transfermarkt.
Serbian winger Djuro Zec signed a two-year deal with Hà Nội FC. Photo superliga.rs
Before coming to Hà Nội on a two-year deal, Zec plied his trade as a left-winger for Backa Topola in Serbia.
The 31-year-old said Việt Nam is a totally new country to him. It will be a challenge and an opportunity for him to discover his abilities.
Earlier, the capital city team welcomed Croatian striker Josip Ivancic and two local players Vũ Minh Tuấn, former national midfielder, and Nguyễn Hai Long, a midfielder who has featured in the national U23's team.
On Saturday, Bình Định introduced 12 new faces who are expected to lift them up in the 2022 season.
Ten of them, including striker Hà Đức Chinh and midfielder Lý Công Hoàng Anh of the national team, signed three-year contracts.
Their two foreign players are Jamaican Jermie Lynch and Brazilian Rafaelson Bezerra Fernandes, who both play in the front line.
SLNA has confirmed national stars Nguyễn Trọng Hoàng Quế Ngọc Hải for the new season.
They also have Nigerian forward Michael Olaha back in the team after two years playing in Israel. They are still in the market for two other foreign players in midfield and up-front.
HCM City signed Brazilian midfielder Bruno Cosendey last week, as well as full-back Dương Văn Khoa, midfielders Đào Quốc Gia and Trần Đình Bảo. They are tipped to sign another Brazilian player in the coming days.
Thanh Hóa secured Brazilian striker Paulo Henrique with a two-year contract. Earlier, they extended a one-year deal with forward Paulo Pinto also from Brazil and signed Serbian defender Igor Jelic for the 2022 season. VNS