|Lý Công Hoàng Anh could end up being the star of the tournament for Việt Nam. Photo zingnews.vn|
It’s hard to believe, but we’re less than two weeks from football at the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games kicking off.
Việt Nam’s male U23 side and three overage players will begin their title defence on May 8 against Indonesia, while the senior women’s team will get underway three days later against the Philippines.
With this my last column before the long-delayed tournament, what better time to make a fool of myself with some bold predictions?
No goals conceded in the group stage
Coach Park Hang-seo’s men's teams are notoriously stingy while coach Mai Đức Chung’s women are at the top of their game having recently qualified for the World Cup, so I see plenty of clean sheets on the horizon.
In fact, I don’t think either team will concede in the group stages.
The men’s side have had a pretty fortunate draw as they face Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Timor-Leste and in the group stages.
Without meaning to disrespect any of the other teams, only Indonesia pose a serious threat so if Việt Nam can keep them out in the first game, they’ll be in a great position to go through the group stage unbeaten and unblemished, especially with senior team defenders like Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh and Nguyễn Thanh Bình to call upon.
The women’s team, meanwhile, only face two games against Cambodia and the Philippines due to Indonesia’s withdrawal from the competition, so their task is even easier.
The women’s final to sell out
It’s no secret that while more successful than the men’s side, the Việt Nam women’s team don’t enjoy the same level of passionate support.
While millions have taken to the streets to revel in coach Park’s teams’ successes, celebrations over the women’s team making history have been much more sedate.
Here’s hoping that changes at this tournament, and if Việt Nam reach the final of the women’s tournament (as they should) and face Thailand for the gold medal, I reckon tickets to the final at Cẩm Phả Stadium in Quảng Ninh Province will be hard to come by for a couple of reasons.
For one, everybody loves a winner and second, we all know how strong national pride runs here in Việt Nam.
Getting the chance to show their skills in front of a packed crowd would be no less than the World Cup-qualifying women’s team deserve.
Underage player to be Việt Nam’s star
The conventional wisdom would have it that if Việt Nam win the men’s tournament, one of the three overage players in the squad will be the event’s best player.
Nguyễn Hoàng Đức, Nguyễn Tiến Linh and Đỗ Hùng Dũng are all more than capable of standing out, but I have a sneaky suspicion we’ll see a younger player emerge as a star turn.
Whether it’s Thanh Bình at the back, Lý Công Hoàng Anh in the middle of the park or Hồ Thanh Minh in attack, expect one of the youngsters to grab the spotlight. VNS