|Midfielder Khuất Văn Khang proves his talent at the age of 19. Photo thanhnien.vn|
When taking charge of the U23s, coach Gong Oh-kyun wanted his team to push every younger players so that the juniors would have a chance to grow up faster.
Many clips were sent to him to watch. But after just five minutes, Gong immediately picked out Khuất Văn Khang.
The South Korean coach had his reason for choosing the 19-year-old midfielder who, under high pressure, exhausting practice and aggressive matches at different levels, is a rising national star.
A football talent
Gong said he spent almost no time watching players carefully. But saw vast potential in Khang. Based on his technique and skill, the young player is expected to develop strongly in the near future.
Gong has been proved right. Despite being the youngest team member, Khang shone brilliantly at the Uzbekistan championship in June.
Việt Nam finished in the quarter-finals, and Khang performed brilliantly in all four matches he participated in. He was voted man of the match in the games between Việt Nam and South Korea in the group stage, and was asked to do a doping test because of his abundant energy.
|Midfielder Khuất Văn Khang (left) was one of two U19 players competing at the AFC U23 Championship in June. Photo thanhnien.vn|
Coach Gong said his players, especially Khang, were ready to play for the national team jersey.
“Age is not a big issue at all. Despite being 19, his technique and personality are the same as the seniors. There is almost no gap between them,” he said.
After the U23 tournament, Khang was the core of the U19 squad in Indonesia’s regional championship last month.
Under his captaincy, Việt Nam secured a bronze medal after an unexpected 3-0 loss to Malaysia in the semi-finals.
Khang scored three goals and several assists and played a part in most of Việt Nam’s 13 goals.
Back home last week, the skipper led Việt Nam to the top podium at the annual Thanh Niên Newspaper International U19 Tournament.
Khang’s outstanding play helped him receive two individual awards as the man of the final and the most valuable player of the tournament.
The wonder kid has received much appreciation from his coaches.
“Khang has good dribbling, passing and ball control skills. He loves to play at high speed. He also scores well and has mastered aerial control,” said coach Nguyễn Thanh Hải of Viettel.
“He is a progressive player who is eager to learn and respected by his teammates for his serious attitude in practising and competing.”
Meanwhile, coach Vũ Hồng Việt said his player was smart and brave. His iron mind helped Khang overcome nervousness in important matches.
“He loves to improve himself. He is always working hard to fulfil his weaknesses of small stature and physique,” he said.
After watching Khang’s performance at the July’s U19 Championship, Football Talent Scout, a website focused on football talent, summarised his strengths, including pace, passing, vision, ball control, creativity, mobility, agility, and flair and set-pieces.
National team dream
Born in 2003 in Hà Nội’s suburb of Phúc Thọ, Khang showed his love for football as a little boy.
After school, Khang spent most of his time on the rice field with his friends and the ball.
At 10, he was recruited to train at Viettel, one of the national best football centres. Khang grew strongly, and his talent was sharpened.
In 2018, Khang was the MVP of the National U15 Championship. He impressed all coaches with his left foot compilation and 100m sprint in only 11.2 seconds.
|Khuất Văn Khang (left) in practise. He expects to find his berth in Viettel FC and national teams in the near future. -- Photo of VFF|
Khang, 15, was upgraded to Viettel’s U19 squad competing in the national championship and then named in the national U16 squad, which was considered a big jump for the teenager.
His first impressive mark at the national level was at the AFC U16 Championship in the same year.
The star performer found the back of the net with his superb free-kick from 30m out against Indonesia, and he said he knew he would score, having put in the hours practising the exact situation.
“I think it was a very aggressive match, and both teams went on to the pitch with their best players. That goal was emulating what we had been training very hard for during our sessions, and we knew we would score the goal because we always put extra effort on the pitch,” said Khang.
Four years later, Khang made another big jump from the U19 squad to the U23 side under coach Gong.
“I love Messi. The Argentinian star is a genius in football, but he has been working hard to be successful today. He is a left-footed player like me. He is a big mirror I look at to perfect myself,” said Khang.
Khang, whose style is similar to Spanish midfielder Juan Mata, said recent awards were strong pushes for him. However, he set a higher target in his career.
“As a player, I dream of being a national team member. I will try hard to make it true,” he said.
“But in the coming time, I hope to earn a berth in the U20 squad to compete at the Asian championship qualification next month. Then, I want to help Việt Nam play in the finals and secure one of four Asian slots at the 2023 World Cup.
“I will fight for my place in Viettel’s starting line-up. I hope to contribute to the club’s success. Young players may not play well in the first matches but be patient with us, and we will prove our abilities.” VNS