Midfielder Đỗ Hùng Dũng (right) is a key player of national team. Photo goal.com
HÀ NỘI — About two weeks since undergoing leg surgery, Đỗ Hùng Dũng is starting down the long road to recovery.
Both Hà Nội FC and the Vietnamese national team will sorely miss Dũng as the midfielder faces at least six months out of action after his leg was broken in a horrific tackle by HCM City FC midfielder Ngô Hoàng Thịnh during a recent V.League 1 match.
The 2019 Golden Ball winner will certainly miss the national team's three remaining World Cup qualification games in Group G in the UAE from May 31 to June 15.
Việt Nam are scheduled to meet Indonesia on June 7, Malaysia on June 11 and UAE on June 15. Việt Nam lead the group with 11 points and have a great opportunity to progress to the next phase, but will have to do so without Dũng.
In the previous 2022 World Cup qualifiers, Dũng played all five games for a total of 427 minutes and is coach Park Hang-seo's top central midfielder thanks to his ability to bring coherence to the team's play.
Midfielder Đỗ Hùng Dũng is the 2019 Golden Ball winner. — Photo baomoi.com
Ideal central midfielder
Central midfield has been one of the positions that has caused the South Korean coach the most headaches.
In the AFC U23 Championship in 2018, Park used the duo Lương Xuân Trường and Phạm Đức Huy. But in the Asian Games 2018, Dũng and Trường were the two main men in the middle of the park. At the AFF Cup 2018, when Trường lost his form, Park called on Dũng, Nguyễn Huy Hùng, Trường and Huy.
However, from the Asian Cup 2019, Dũng became the key central midfielder for the national team.
While Dũng’s importance is tough to express in statistics due to his role in the team, his playing 427 of the 450 available minutes in the qualifiers shows how crucial he is.
At Hà Nội FC, Dũng was not appreciated in the early years of his career because of his average level of skill, but as he has matured, his endurance and hard work have made him a key part of the V.League 1's top team.
When Park was allowed to select two players over 22 years old for the SEA Games in 2019, he didn’t hesitate to choose Dũng. The midfielder shone in the Philippines and scored an important goal against Indonesia in the final to help Việt Nam win their first-ever gold medal at the SEA Games.
In the World Cup qualifiers, Dũng and Nguyễn Tuấn Anh formed an excellent duo in the midfield against more fancied opponents.
Midfielder Đỗ Hùng Dũng would be out of action at least six months after his leg was broken. — Photo nld.com.vn
Coach Park lost Dũng to a toe injury at the Asian Games in 2018 and though Việt Nam still reached the semi-finals, without Dũng, the midfield was overrun against the stronger teams.
When he saw the midfielder's latest injury against HCM City while in the stands, Park rushed down to console him in the ambulance and later visited him in the hospital.
“This injury directly affects the preparation of the Vietnamese team. The decisive period of the 2022 World Cup qualifying round is coming. Dũng has a vital position. Without him, it is really worrying. To have balanced tactics, the Vietnamese team needs Dũng,” said pundit Ngô Quang Tùng.
Dũng’s injury has caused coach Park a headache but he seems to have settled on a few options for replacements, judging by the list of players to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers in the UAE.
The central midfielders to be vaccinated include Phạm Đức Huy (Hà Nội FC), Trường, Anh (Hoàng Anh Gia Lai), Nguyễn Huy Hùng (SHB Đà Nẵng) and Nguyễn Hải Huy (Than Quảng Ninh).
Tuấn Anh is likely to take one central midfield spot, so Park may select a player in a similar mould to Dũng to play alongside him.
Trường is the most skilful player among the rest of the central midfielders, but Đức Huy, Hùng and Hải Huy are more similar Dũng. Among those four, Hải Huy may be a name to watch.
Midfielder Nguyễn Hải Huy of Quảng Ninh. — Photo thethao247.vn
The Than Quảng Ninh player knocked on the door of the national team last year but was injured.
Since recovering, Hải Huy has played like his old self.
Hải Huy is very similar to Dũng: diligent, humble and talented. He is a link between attack and defence, being the first to launch an attack and the first to try and shut down a counterattack. — VNS