The goal that changed it all

June 10, 2024 - 08:30
Many would say that Phạm Tuấn Hải's last-minute winning goal was the defining moment of the match, but for me Tiến Linh's 1-1 equaliser was the goal that changed it all for Việt Nam.
Việt Nam players celebrating after winning Thursday's match against the Philippines. VNA/VNS Photo Tuấn Anh

Anh Đức

The story of Việt Nam before 8.20pm on Thursday was: seven defeats in a row and goalless in the last two games plus sixty minutes.

8.16pm, or the sixty-first minute, a golden chance fell to the Golden Star Warriors. Nguyễn Hoàng Đức was free, but he did not take the shot, instead passed to Nguyễn Tiến Linh, who could not get to the ball.

8.17pm and 16 seconds, Philippines had a chance on the counter. Patrick Reichelt got past Đỗ Duy Mạnh, through on goal and sent the ball into the back of Đặng Văn Lâm's net. Mỹ Đình Stadium was eerily silenced.

8.19pm and 30 seconds, Đức sent a long ball towards Nguyễn Văn Toàn, who crossed in for Linh to tap in Neil Etheridge's net, in a moment that could be a reversal of fate for Vietnamese football.

Many would say that Phạm Tuấn Hải's last-minute winning goal was the defining moment of the match, but for me Linh's 1-1 equaliser was the goal that changed it all for Việt Nam.

Striker Linh had never scored during Philippe Troussier's tenure, with his last goal coming in the 2-2 draw against Thailand in the AFF Cup in 2023. During his one-year goal drought, the striker had to endure criticism and ridicule and even calls for him to be dropped from the national team. The equaliser showed that Linh still had the composure of a striker and propelled his mentality to score the header that put Việt Nam ahead 10 minutes later.

For the Việt Nam national football team, the goal was crucial for two reasons.

First, for the team, it shows that they do not give up, and can overcome a shocking situation.

In the Troussier era, Việt Nam was hopeless, dismal and always lost when they were behind, which is most evident in their 0-3 loss at home to Indonesia, in what many pundits called a capitulation of mentality.

Tactics-wise, Troussier's Việt Nam passed the ball around and had a great deal of possession when they pushed forward, looking to equalise, but lacked the creativity to progress into the final third. The substitutions by the Frenchman were either too late or had little to no effect.

Second, for the fans, the goal reignited a stadium as silent as a library and reignited the belief for the team. The match against the Philippines had perhaps Việt Nam's lowest attendance in years, with only a quarter of Mỹ Đình filled.

As a person who was in the stands during both this game and the defeat against Indonesia, the atmosphere was completely different, especially after the equaliser.

As Việt Nam pushed on and got chance after chance, the all-seater became an all-standing stadium because the fans were always ready to cheer.

Việt Nam came into this match with a slim chance of progressing to the World Cup qualifying third round, and although the chances are widened for a little bit with Thursday's results, it is still a long shot.

But if somehow the miracle happens, this goal would be the literal pivotal moment that turned around what could be a failed campaign for Việt Nam. VNS