Viettel face dauting task in AFC Champions League

June, 26/2021 - 10:05

Viettel will kick off their debut Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League campaign against defending champions Ulsan Hyundai on Saturday in Thailand.


Viettel midfielder Nguyễn Hữu Thắng (left) and striker Dương Thanh Hào, seen during training in Bangkok. Viettel will play Ulsan Hyundai in their AFC Champions League debut today. Photo Viettel FC

HÀ NỘI   Viettel will kick off their debut Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League campaign against defending champions Ulsan Hyundai today in Thailand.

The Group F match pits the V.League 1 champions against one of the most successful sides in the competition's history.

Despite the huge challenge, Việt Nam's champions are confident they can secure a positive result.

"The COVID-19 pandemic creates worldwide obstacles. Football also suffers and Viettel also could not avoid it. Apart from difficulties in procedures and preparation for the tournament in the pandemic season, we also are in a group with strong rivals. But whenever taking part in a competition Viettel always play hard and look for the best result," said coach Trương Việt Hoàng.

"Competing at the highest level tournament of Asia is an honour for the club and also a national task. We are proud to be the sole representative of Việt Nam at this event and we will play for the country," he said.

Viettel gained promotion to the domestic top-flight in 2018. It took them two years to be crowned champions. That success saw the Hà Nội-based club qualify directly to the 2021 AFC Champions League group stage and they will be the first Vietnamese side to appear in the competition proper since Becamex Bình Dương in 2016.

"It is very hot in Bangkok; the climate is the same as Dubai where Việt Nam took part in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. We have to adapt ourselves to these environmental conditions first, and then think about how to secure good result here," said skipper Bùi Tiến Dũng.

Dũng and four other teammates of the national team joined their club after success in the World Cup qualification round. They have had two training sessions together in Bangkok.

"Here we have to follow the strict quarantine rules of the hosts to control the COVID-19 pandemic. But they don't stop us from training or competing. I have not trained with the whole team for nearly two months but it is no difficulty to find the pace of the team," Dũng added.

The defender said he knew playing Ulsan Hyundai job would be tough as they are home to five national team members and powerful attacking players, but the 24-year-old said his side had their strengths as well.

"Our strength is in the unity, discipline and spirit of a military team that helped us conquer the V.League 1 just two years after our return. No other Vietnamese club has achieved such a feat in more than 10 years," he said.

"In the upcoming match, our defence must be really focused and stable to keep a clean sheet as long as possible. And if possible, we can score some goals."

Ulsan Hyundai are one of South Korea's top clubs. Established in 1983, they have twice won the national championship and finished second nine times. They have also taken one FA Cup, five League Cups and one Super Cup.

In the Champions League, Ulsan Hyundai lifted the trophy in 2012 and 2020. They are considered the title favourites this year.

Another match today is between BG Pathum United of Thailand and Kaya FC of the Philippines. The latter side defeated Shanghai Port of China in the play-off on Wednesday to qualify. 

BG Pathum United were in the second tier of Thai football in 2018 but returned to the top in 2020 won the league in the 2020-21 season.

Kaya took their domestic FA Cup title in 2018 and won a berth in the AFC Cup in 2019 and 2020. They are the first club from the Philippines to play in the Champions League.

Viettel will play Kaya on June 29 and BG Pathum United on July 2.

The return leg matches will be from July 5-11. VNS