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The Local Game: All you need is Linh, Linh is all you need

Update: March, 16/2021 - 08:11

 

Nguyễn Tiến Linh (right) celebrates his goal against Viettel. Photo thethao247.vn

Peter Cowan

I’m not sure what kind of music national team head coach Park Hang-seo is into, though seeing as he’s 63 years old, I’m guessing he doesn’t sing along to the crooning of BTS or Blackpink when he’s in the shower.

It’s easier to imagine the Korean strategist being into a band like The Beatles and if he is indeed a fan of the Liverpudlian band, perhaps he could take some inspiration from their 1967 hit All You Need is Love.

While The Beatles sang that love was all you need, I reckon all coach Park needs is another four-letter word: Linh.

To be more specific, Becamex Bình Dương striker Nguyễn Tiến Linh is all he needs.

Park has vocally bemoaned the quality of Vietnamese strikers available to him and their lack of opportunities in the V.League 1 and while he has a point, I would say to him it’ll be a cold day in HCM City before he finds a striker more suited to his team than Linh.

The 23-year-old has bloomed into a powerful target man for club and country and is very reminiscent of his former teammate Nguyễn Anh Đức, a player Park relied on so much he persuaded him out of international retirement a couple of years ago.

However it’s not his ability to lead the line and make the ball stick up top that makes Linh tailor-made for coach Park’s team, rather it’s his finishing and the role he plays for his club.

For as much success as coach Park has led the national team to, critics have charged him with favouring a rigid, overly defensive system when he is blessed with some prodigious attacking talents.

While the critics do have a point, it’s hard to argue with the results coach Park and his system have brought to Việt Nam, and it’s the rigidity of that system that makes Linh perfect.

To put it simply, the man doesn’t miss when he gets a sight of goal. On Sunday night at Hàng Đẫy Stadium, he scored a superb equaliser for Bình Dương against Viettel and would have had a second if it weren’t for a superb save from goalkeeper Trần Nguyên Mạnh.

Those were Linh’s only two chances the entire night and he was largely uninvolved in the build-up play otherwise, which, love it or hate it, is exactly the role he plays for his country.

While it would be tempting to select flashier, more skilled players in the lone striker role for the national team like Hoàng Anh Gia Lai pair Nguyễn Công Phượng and Nguyễn Văn Toàn, the truth is the fine margins coach Park plays with means he needs a killer like Linh up front.

As much as I love watching Văn Toàn play, he’s not exactly the most clinical finisher and as for Công Phượng, for me he’s far too mercurial to rely on as the team’s only striker, which is perhaps why Park has preferred him out wide or as a substitute.

Of course, it’d be nice to have more than love, I mean Linh, to call upon as a back-up in the number nine role for Việt Nam but for the time being Linh is all he has, and Linh is all he needs. VNS

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