Thanh Hoá defends its National Cup title, extends head coach contract

July 09, 2024 - 10:44
Thanh Hóa succesfully retained their National Cup title and extend a relationship with Bulgarian coach Velizar Popov to 2026.
Thanh Hoá players, coaches, and officials celebrate their National Cup victory, beating Hà Nội FC 9-8 in the penalties. Photos of VPF

HÀ NỘI -- Thanh Hóa defended their National Cup title after a thrilling penalty shootout and at the same time successfully extended a relationship with their Bulgarian coach Velizar Popov to 2026.

Although their V.League 1 result was unexpected, Thanh Hóa proved a threatening force at the National Cup on July 7.

On their way to defend the title, Thanh Hoá knocked V.League 1 champion Thép Xanh Nam Định out in the semi-finals and beat six-time champions Hà Nội.

Goalkeeper Trịnh Xuân Hoàng was the hero of the final, denying two of Hà Nội's finishes after teammate Hoàng Đình Tùng missed his shot. Thanh Hoá won 9-8 to take the trophy home.

Hours after their triumphant celebration, Thanh Hóa managers announced a new two-year contract with current coach Popov who led the team to the National Cup twice in succession, their best achievement.

Previously, Popov was expected to leave Thanh Hóa after the end of the 2023-24 season. The Bulgarian often complained about the club's poor support and ambitions and his dreams of working in Brazil.

However, Thanh Hóa President Cao Tiến Đoan said: “Popov will stay with Thanh Hóa for two more years. We just signed a contract yesterday."

Popov also confirmed the news adding that he agreed to stay because of his love for the teams' players.

Bulgarian coach Velizar Popov will take charge of Thanh Hoá till 2026.

He said: "I will still be here in the next seasons. I promised that to the players if they won the Cup, so now I am really happy. "

Popov, who was sidelined in the final match because of bookings, added: " I was not much worried when staying out of the game while players worked hard against Hà Nội. We had prepared carefully. My players are smart and disciplined. We strictly followed tactics. We had our chances, and we knew what we wanted and how to win."

With this victory, Thanh Hoá will join Nam Định in representing Việt Nam at the AFC Champions League II next season.

President Đoan said Thanh Hoá will invest heavily to improve their facilities ready for their debut into the continental competition. This pledge was also part of the reason that helped persuade Popov to sign a new deal.

For Hà Nội, the failure at the National Cup was not good news for coach Daiki Iwamasa. He might be separating from the team in the next few days since his contract expires on July 14 and the two sides have reportedly not found any common ground.

Hà Nội wanted to have further years with the Japanese coach after he helped Hà Nội to jump from the lower part of the V.League 1 to third place and into the National Cup final in just six months. But Iwamasa is less keen.

Japanese Daiki Iwamasa (left) wants to leave Hà Nội after their contract ends by the en d of this week. Photo of Hà Nội FC

Hà Nội's Executive Director Nguyễn Quốc Tuấn said the club tried to persuade Iwamasa to stay, but he wanted to return home to work at the J.League.

In case of failing to persuade Iwamasa, Hà Nội FC needs to act fast in hiring a new head coach, with the next season beginning on August 23.

In other moves of the V.League 1:

Hải Phòng will sign a contract with Bùi Tiến Dụng who can play as a defender and central midfielder to improve their power for the 2024-25 V.League 1. Dụng played for Hải Phòng in 2022 before he moved to Hà Nội Police last year.

Meanwhile, the club will not have Ugandan striker Joseph Mpande, a key player who scored 11 goals and four assists, as they failed to extend his contract, which ended when the league wrapped up.

The Police will announce its new two-year contract with defender Trần Đình Trọng in the next few days.

Trọng, former national player, could not find regular position in Bình Định's first XI in 2022-23 due to injury. But last season, he proved his ability setting a strong defence for Bình Định which successfully finished at second place.

Hoàng Anh Gia Lai also made changes for the new season, they announced they have extended their contract with midfielder Châu Ngọc Quang and signed a deal with former national goalkeeper Bùi Tiến Dũng.

Quang was one of key players in Hoàng Anh Gia Lai for many years. He will stay with the team till the end of 2026 season.

Dũng came to the club under a loan contract with the Police. His remarkable performance persuaded Hoàng Anh Gia Lai to ink a two-year deal with him. VNS