|Nguyễn Tiến Linh was the joint top scorer at the 2022 AFF Cup. He is also a candidate for the national Golden Ball award. VNA/VNS Photo|
HÀ NỘI — Nguyễn Tiến Linh might not have brought the AFF Cup home, but he did make history as the tournament's first Vietnamese top scorer with six goals.
Linh finished the tournament level on goals with Thailand’s Teerasil Dangda, with whom he shares the Top Goal Scorer award.
In the group stage, Linh scored three goals in matches against Laos, Malaysia, and Myanmar.
In the last-four round, he netted two more in the semi-final second leg against Indonesia.
In the final first leg against Thailand, he opened the scoring for the Golden Star Warriors, his sixth goal in the tournament. However, he failed to convert several opportunities in the second leg.
Four of his goals were headers, leading to Linh being dubbed the 'king of aerial duels' at the regional championship.
On January 16, Việt Nam lost the final 3-2 on aggregate to Thailand.
It was Linh's third AFF Cup. In 2018, he scored once. In the 2020 edition, he got a brace.
Since their first AFF Cup appearance in 1996, Việt Nam have won the trophy twice, and three of their players were voted Most Valuable Player of the tournament, but Linh is the first to finish as top scorer.
In the 2002 edition, Lê Huỳnh Đức also finished the tournament with six goals, but the title went to Indonesian Bambang Pamungkas with eight.
|Nguyễn Tiến Linh shares the Top Scorer award with Thailand’s Teerasil Dangda. VNS Photo Nguyễn Khánh|
Linh is currently one of the three best Vietnamese strikers on the national team. In his 38 caps, Linh has netted 19 times, an average of one goal every two matches.
He is still far behind top-placed Lê Công Vinh (51 goals) and second-positioned Đức (27 goals) in Việt Nam's all-time scoring leaderboard, but the 26-year-old will have many opportunities to narrow the gap in the future.
First Golden Ball award
Linh's outstanding performances and AFF Cup achievements have made him a favourite to win the Golden Ball award, honouring the best footballer of 2022, which will be announced in the middle of February.
As well as his international success, Linh was also the second-highest scorer in the 2022 V.League. The Becamex Bình Dương striker finished the season with nine goals.
His biggest rivals in the race to win the statue are striker Phạm Tuấn Hải and midfielder Nguyễn Văn Quyết, both of champion Hà Nội FC.
Hải finished the season with a tally of ten goals, while Quyết was the best V.League player as voted by the organising board. However, neither of them has done as well on the international stage.
In 2021, Linh won the Bronze Ball, behind Nguyễn Hoàng Đức of Viettel FC and Nguyễn Quang Hải of Hà Nội FC.
“At this point, Linh has his biggest chance to bring home the Golden Ball. His contribution to the national team is impressive, and he also shone with the U23s squad, winning the 31st SEA Games gold medal,” said pundit Ngô Quang Tùng. VNS