Striker Nguyễn Công Phượng is likely not to play at least until the end of the AFF Cup group stage. — Photo thethao247.vn
HÀ NỘI — If HCM City City go far into the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup this year, striker Nguyễn Công Phượng will likely miss a large chunk of the national team's AFF Cup campaign.
City and Quảng Ninh Coal are the two Vietnamese representatives in Asia's second-tier continental contest. After finishing the first half of the group stage, Quảng Ninh have four points and rank second in Group G, while HCM City lead Group F with seven points.
Both teams remaining three fixtures in the group stage are at home.
Pundits have tipped Quảng Ninh and especially HCM City to go far in this year's tournament.
However, the AFC Cup’s competition schedule is similar to the AFF Cup. So if HCM City make a deep run in the contest, the national team's star striker won't be available until at least the end of the AFF Cup group stage.
The AFC recently announced the schedule for the AFC Cup 2020 after the coronavirus-induced postponement. The second half of the group stage is set to take place on September 23, 26 and 29.
After the group stage, instead of playing a home and away format as in previous years, the semi-finals and finals of the Southeast Asia region, as well as the inter-region, will play one-off fixtures at locations regulated by AFC. The semi-finals of Southeast Asia are scheduled for October 20-21, while the final will take place on November 4.
Next, the champion of Southeast Asia will play in the semi-finals of the inter-region on November 24-25. The inter-region finals will be held on December 2, while the AFC Cup final is scheduled for December 12.
The issue is that the semi-finals of the inter-region part of the tournament coincide with the AFF Cup 2020 (starting from November 23).
Because the AFF Cup is not in the FIFA competition system, clubs participating in the AFC Cup are not required to release their players for national teams.
In the case of HCM City and Quảng Ninh Coal, prominent players Phượng, Ngô Hoàng Thịnh, Nguyễn Hữu Tuấn, Võ Huy Toàn (HCM City), Mạc Hồng Quân and Nghiêm Xuân Tú (Quảng Ninh) could be unavailable to the national team.
Among these players, Phượng is the most notable name. The striker from the central province of Nghệ An is a key player of coach Park Hang-seo and is in good form in the V.League 1.
The South Korean coach Park will probably not have the service of these players until the end of the AFF Cup’s group stages in mid-December.
A long campaign could also leave the players worn down, which would be another blow to Viet Nam's title defence. — VNS