|Striker Nguyễn Văn Toàn of Hoàng Anh Gia Lai seen in a recent match in the V.League 1. — Photo docnhanh.com.vn
HÀ NỘI — Striker Nguyễn Văn Toàn has a chance to shine for the national team in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers thanks to his outstanding form in the V.League 1.
Previously, head coach of the Vietnamese team Park Hang-seo told the media that the best strikers in Việt Nam are Hà Đức Chinh, Nguyễn Tiến Linh and Nguyễn Công Phượng. Toàn was conspicious by his abscense from the list.
Although Toàn is a top domestic striker, the 25-year-old has struggled to replicate his form in international football.
Toàn has been the top domestic striker in the V.League 1 for the past three years with 21 goals in 58 matches for Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL), but has not scored a single goal for the national team under the South Korean coach Park.
However, this could be the year he breaks through, as Toàn is playing better than ever.
The Hải Dương Province-born striker has scored seven goals in 12 league matches, making him the league's joint-top scorer.
Along with Phượng and midfielder Trần Minh Vương, the HAGL trio has scored 17 goals, more than 10 other teams in the V.League 1.
In the past three years, when Toàn scored 21 goals in 58 appearances, Linh nabbed 18 goals, Chinh scored eight and Phượng 12.
Toàn brings more to a team than goals and before Thai coach Kiatisuk Senamuang took the helm at HAGL, he had a different role in the team.
Under coach South Korean Lee Tae-hoon, HAGL sat deep and relied on Toàn and Jamaican Chevaughn Walsh for their attacking threat. When coach Dương Minh Ninh was in charge, HAGL played a possession-based game but kept rotating the attack. Whatever the style of play though, the coaches found a place for Toàn, who has always played at least 20 matches per season from 2016 to now.
However, for the national team, Toàn is facing a goal drought. In 12 matches with 636 minutes lasting from the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers, AFF Cup 2018, Asian Cup 2019, World Cup 2022 qualifiers and the King's Cup friendly tournament, Toàn hasn’t scored once.
Toàn's last goal for the national team was in a 1-1 draw with Afghanistan on March 28, 2017. His only goal under coach Park was against Syria in the 2018 ASIAD quarter-finals in the jersey of the Olympic team.
The forward was far from Park's first choice in 2018 and much of 2019. At the AFF Cup 2018, Toàn suffered a serious injury so he played only 14 minutes and when he recovered, he struggled to get back on the pitch. In the Asian Cup 2019, Toàn played only four matches from the bench with a total time of 122 minutes.
In the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, Toàn has played all five matches, but that may have been as Phan Văn Đức was injured.
According to pundit Vũ Quang Huy, this mainly came from tactical factors.
“The Vietnamese team played in a 3-4-3 formation. It had three attackers, but Park always gave priority to tight play. Toàn played as a striker but was mainly assigned to stick to the sideline to create space for his teammates. At this time, Toàn was still in the process of getting experience, so it was difficult to ask him to score regularly,” said Huy.
|Striker Nguyễn Văn Toàn of Hoàng Anh Gia Lai is best scorer in the V.League 1. Photo bungbinh.vn
For HAGL, Toàn is shining and always creates trouble for his opponents thanks to his speed, skill and dribbling ability.
Perhaps what has hurt Toàn's goal return most is having to play out wide for the national team, making his few chances harder to finish.
"Toàn missed many chances which affected his confidence and made people feel that it was difficult for him to score," Huy said.
However, Thai coach Senamuang has opened a new chapter for Toàn.
“I feel very happy and proud to work with Senamuang. He taught me the skills of a striker. So my technique has improved. I have improved clearly in many aspects. I am more confident when competing and feel that everything becomes easier,” said Toàn.
Above all, the tactical innovation of Senamuang helped Toàn get closer to the goal.
"Toàn’s form and level are very high. He is currently the best player in Việt Nam," Senamuang told media recently.
|Striker Nguyễn Văn Toàn trains with coach Park Hang-seo. — Photo thanhnien.vn
The Thai “Zico” rarely offers up such strong praise without good reason.
The improvement of his finishing skills will give Toàn confidence when competing with other strikers like Linh and Văn Đức and may just lead to him getting a crucial goal for the national team next month. VNS