More tough times could be ahead for Hà Nội FC. Photo thanhnien.vn
At long last, Vietnamese football is back.
Alright, by the time SHB Đà Nẵng and Hà Tĩnh kick-off this coming Saturday we’ll only have gone without V.League 1 football for 42 days.
That may not be that long in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly felt like an interminable wait, especially for those of us tasked with writing a football column without any actual football taking place!
To celebrate the imminent return of the beautiful game, I’m going to stick my neck on the line and make a few bold predictions for the rest of the season.
Hà Nội FC will finish outside the top three
The country’s top team over the last few years may be languishing at the very bottom of the table right now, but few pundits or fans expect them to stay there.
I’m not so sure a bounce back to title contention is on the cards though.
Yes, Hà Nội have been hit badly by injuries and will be getting some key defensive players back soon, but I think their problems lie further up the park.
Coach Chu Đình Nghiêm is blessed with attacking talent in spades and that embarrassment of riches is what I think may prove his downfall.
Too many forward-thinking players are often crammed into the Hà Nội starting XI, leaving them exposed in the middle of the park where football matches tend to be won and it’s hard to see that changing withoutNghiêm making tough decisions and leaving out some well-paid star men.
Hà Nội have too much talent to stay in the bottom half, but I can see them failing to mount a proper title challenge.
Viettel make it out of their Champions League group
Việt Nam's champions face formidable opponents in the AFC Champions League’s Group F in the form of South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai, Thai champions BG Pathum United FC and the winner of a playoff.
It will be a big ask for Viettel to go through and they’ll deservedly be underdogs, but I fancy Trương Việt Hoàng’s men to make a nuisance of themselves.
Let’s not forget they won the title last season on the back of five 1-0 wins and a 0-0 draw with Hà Nội, all the matches coming within a 25-day window.
Due to the pandemic, their six group stage matches will take place in just 12 days and I think the manner in which they won the league will give them the confidence that they can put a similar run together in a competition where it’s essentially all about one good run of form.
Keeping things tight at the back and hoping to nick a goal is the Viettel formula and it could serve them well in continental competition.
Nguyễn Hoàng Đức becomes a national team starter
If Viettel are pull off a minor miracle and qualify for the knock-out stages, midfielder Nguyễn Hoàng Đức will have a big part to play and I think play his way into the national team.
The 23-year-old runs the show from the middle of the park for Viettel and while his team suffered a poor start to the season, he was the best player on the pitch in both the Super Cup and their league opener against Hải Phòng.
He’s composed on the ball, controls the tempo and carries a goal threat and while he may be a bit of a lightweight for international football, it’s not like any of coach Park Hang-seo’s other options are built like Tyson Fury.
Indeed Đức has been in better form of late than national team stalwarts like Nguyễn Tuấn Anh and Lương Xuân Trường of Hoàng Anh Gia Lai, and if he can keep it up he should add to his solitary cap in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. VNS