Viet Nam News
By Thanh Ha
HÀ NỘI — He was hit hard before he fell with a loud scream. He rolled on the field and the pain was visible on his face.
At home, millions of people stared at the TV with worried faces and hands covering their mouths. They waited with bated breath until he could stand and was able to join the game again.
He is Lê Công Vinh, "the soul" of the Việt Nam football team, which are in Myanmar to compete for the nation’s second ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup trophy.
Vinh left the Việt Nam vs Malaysia match last week with a leg injury. He then posted a photo of himself with his thigh and calf covered with ice, which is captioned “Backstage of the fight."
Some hours later, the photo had received more than 85,000 likes and nearly 2,000 comments. Fans shared his pain, encouraged the striker and wished him a speedy recovery because he holds the key to the team’s victory.
Vinh is one of the most experienced players of the team and one of two members still playing of the team what won the AFF Cup in 2008, which is the sole title bagged by Việt Nam in the regional competition.
Eight years since, Vinh remains an important player in the first team and is playing outstandingly at the Myanmar event.
In group B, Vinh scored two goals and made nine key passes in three matches.
He was described "at the heart of everything Việt Nam did in the attacking third. He moved off the ball constantly to make himself available for the pass, and unlocked the Myanmar backline with his vision," according to fourfourtwo.com.
The website wrote that Vinh had reached a topnotch level of performance.
But more than that, Vinh always appeared just in time help the Việt Nam team out when they are stuck.
During the Myanmar game, when it was 1-1, the Vietnamese attacked hard but could not find a goal while the host players fought back strongly. Vinh was the savior with his rapid close-range finish to make it a 2-1 win.
In the next match against Cambodia, it was Vinh who openeed the scoring despite Việt Nam playing with 10 men since the seventh minute.
Previously in the 2008 Cup final, Vinh, who was only 23, made a historic header, helping Việt Nam beat powerhouse Thailand 2-1.
“Scoring for the national team brings me special feeling. It is greater as they are goals at the AFF Cup,” 31-year-old Vinh who has 83 caps for his native country, said.
Vinh, who has been always been the No 1 choice for all local and foreign coaches in his career, is set to make more records at this Cup.
With his 51st goal for the national team on November 26, Vinh jumped to No 7 in the world’s top 10 active scorers by country. Vinh is even sitting higher than Brazilian Neymar and Dutch Robin van Persie, who have both scored 50 goals, and just two less than Briton Wayne Rooney and three less than Lionel Messi of Argentina.
With 15 goals at the AFF Cup, so far, Vinh is the best Vietnamese scorer in the history of the competition. He is the only player in the region to score in five Cup editions.
His goal in the Cambodia match has been voted one of five most beautiful goals of the group round by FourFourTwo and Fox Sport Asia.
Vinh is also second on the top scorer list this year event, following Teerasil Dangda of Thailand with three goals.
He is also set to topple the tournament’s record of 17 goals made by Noh Alam Shah of Singapore.
He still has at least two matches ahead, which could increase to four if Việt Nam enter the final, to increase the number of goals.
The three-time Golden Ball winner will retire after this Cup.
“Everyone has his own memory of youth. For me, it is of a 12-year-old boy with two pieces of clothing joining the Sông Lam Nghệ An Club. When he was 18 he was called to the national team. It is nearly 20 years with the ball now. I have shed sweat, tears and blood to grow up. Sometimes it seemed I had given up everything, but no, I stood up and stepped forward,” Vinh posted on his Facebook account.
“Football has brought me many things, including honour for me and my family, because I have worked hard. Success will not come to lazy men.
“I love football and I will miss it a lot after retirement and I might cry. My only regret it that even if we can enter the final match I cannot make it the 100th time wearing the national jersey. But at present I want to play with all my capacity. I want to end my career with a successful AFF Cup, a second trophy,” Vinh who announced his retirement with the national team recently, said, adding it was a difficult decision but one that had to be made.
“My teammates are talented. They are the future of Việt Nam football. We’re seeing such good and young players in the national team after a long time.
“People have high expectations from us and we also expect a lot from ourselves. We need to focus 100 per cent on training hard and strictly following tactics by the coaching board to achieve good results. The two semifinal matches are important for not only us, but also for national football. We will do everything to make it to the final, which Việt Nam has not entered for many years."
According to statistics, under coach Nguyễn Hữu Thắng’s reign, Vinh played in 14 out of 18 matches (11 wins) and netted 15 times. Việt Nam won all six matches when Vinh opened the score.
The match is scheduled to kick off at 7pm Hà Nội time on December 3 at the 30,000-capacity Pakansari Stadium in Bogor, 50km from Jakarta. It will be aired live on Fox Sports and VTV6 channels. — VNS