19-year-old forward Nguyễn Quốc Việt of Việt Nam (left) competes in a match between Việt Nam and Singapore during the AFF U23 Championship in February in Cambodia. Photo of VFF
Việt Nam's U19 team failed to take the regional championship trophy, but Nguyễn Quốc Việt shined brilliantly to be honoured as the top scorer in the tournament recently held in Indonesia.
With five goals in five matches, Việt has lifted his level. The ‘King' of domestic junior leagues has begun dominating the regional youth championships.
Việt was not a regular face of Việt Nam’s starting line at the tournament. He was even not given a minute to play in a previous group round match, but Việt showed his sharp scoring skills and smart runs off the ball, which guaranteed him a shot in the near future.
Born to score
Việt was born in Hải Phòng City in 2003 and made his name with the U13 team of Hải Dương, which won the Yamaha Cup U13 Football Championship in 2016.
His impressive performance and scoring caught the eyes of coach Guillaume Graechen of Hoàng Anh Gia Lai JMG Academy (now Nutifood JMG Academy), and he brought Việt to Plei Ku for intensive training to be a professional.
Nguyễn Quốc Việt seen in a training session when Việt Nam prepare for the AFF U19 Championship tournament. — PHOTO of VFF
“I believe the U13 football tournament that year (2016) was a key point in my life. I met Graechen, who put me straight into the academy without any trial,” Việt said.
“I dreamt of being a doctor who could save many people’s lives. It was due to the many movies I watched on TV. But my dream changed when I learned about football.
“I first practised football when I was a Grade 2 student. I loved the ball very much, and my passion was nurtured strongly by my father, who sent me to practise in centres in Hải Phòng. I loved seeing the seniors playing, and having a chance to play with them was my best award. I fell in love with football. And for me, no job is better than being a player.”
Under French coach Graechen who played key role helping Vietnamese stars such as Nguyễn Công Phượng, Nguyễn Văn Toàn, Lương Xuân Trường and Nguyễn Tuấn Anh shine over nearly 10 years, Việt has grown up fast.
He was picked to play in the National U19 Championship in 2019, 2020 and 2021. His younger age was not a problem for the talented striker to score and take the best goal-scorer award three years in a row.
He also took part in the National U17 Championship in 2020, and with nine goals, Việt also stole the best scorer title.
Last year, at the National U21 Championship, the 18-year-old netted four times, including a winner in the final, to help Nutifood Academy beat Hà Nội and take the trophy. His outstanding performance brought him the MVP title after his fifth best-scorer award, a record in Việt Nam.
Việt has been compared with national striker Toàn, famed for his scoring skills, fast speed and endurance.
He was the fifth Vietnamese to lift the prestigious statue, nine years after Toàn made it with six goals in 2013.
Nguyễn Quốc Việt (No 9) and teammates celebrate his goal in the third-place play-off of the AFF U19 Championship on July 15. The match ended 1-1 before Việt Nam won 5-3 in a penalty shootout. — Photo courtesy of VFF
“Việt and Toàn have different playing styles, but their moving on the field is nearly identical. Việt may not be as fast as Toàn, but his scoring efficiency is better. Toàn can score a goal from four in five chances, but Việt can convert every opportunity,” Graechen said.
Việt is also a playmaker who can work successfully in a team and do a good job individually to create a turning point in the match. Just a one-second lapse by an opposing defender, and Việt will surely pounce and score.
At the age of 19, Việt was one of four youngest players of the Việt Nam side competing at the AFF U23 Championship in Cambodia in February. Việt Nam won the tournament after defeating Thailand 1-0 in the final.
He was also called up to practise with the U23 squad preparing for the 31st SEA Games. Although the youngster did not make the final list, his ability impressed head coach Park Hang-seo.
“I have no secret to being the best scorer. Scoring is the job of a forward. My task is to score as many as possible,” said Việt, who is appreciated for his smart play, and ability to score with both feet.
Nguyễn Quốc Việt poses with top scorer award at the AFF U19 Championship on July 15. — PHOTO courtesy of VFF
Việt’s heading ability is also special despite his 1.72m height. Among Việt’s five goals at the Jakarta event, three were bagged with his head.
“To get this humble achievement, I must work hard every day. I wake up earlier than my teammates and stay on the field later than them to sharpen my skills, no matter if it's hot or rainy weather. I learnt by heart the saying, 'On the way to success, there is no trace of a lazy man.'”
Việt is positive-minded and never gives up when facing difficulties. He always looks forward and asks himself to do his best so that he will not regret anything.
The goal hunter has now set his eyes on the local leagues.
“I look towards the day I can play in the V.League 1 where I can vie for a ball against senior players. Playing in the national premier league will push my abilities and give me more lessons for my future career,” he said.
“I dream of the day I am a national team member and, more than that, I am the Golden Ball winner. Somebody once said: ‘The first and best victory is to conquer the self,' and I will surely conquer myself.” VNS