Vietnam national team are all set to travel to Thailand where they will face the hosts in the opening match of the King’s Cup 2019 at the Chang Arena in Buriram on June 5.
The 47th edition of the tournament will see the Golden Dragons and War Elephants rekindle the rivalry between the two sides with only the winner standing a chance to battle India or Curacao in the final to lift the prestigious trophy.
However, the tournament will also act as a platform for a number of stars to impress their national team coaches with the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers, slated to begin in September 2019, just around the corner.
This is indeed the case with Vietnam as well with a string of players looking to pin down a place in head coach Park Hang-seo’s wider plans with a good display in the King’s Cup 2019.
Here, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at five Vietnamese stars who have made a comeback to the Golden Dragons’ squad and are looking to grab the eyeballs of the South Korean tactician.
1) Tran Nguyen Manh – Goalkeeper – Song Lam Nghe An FC
This is Tran Nguyen Manh’s first look in at the Golden Dragons after a disastrous semifinal outing in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2016 against Indonesia. The SLNA FC goalkeeper received his marching orders for kicking his opponent in the second leg of the semifinal resulting in centre-back Que Ngoc Hai replacing him between the sticks for the rest of the game. Vietnam lost to Tim Garuda after extra time and Nguyen Manh hasn’t played for the national team since. However, Park has decided to give the 27-year-old a chance at redemption now and with first-choice custodian Dang Van Lam struggling with Muangthong United domestically, a starting place against Thailand in the opener on Wednesday is not improbable for Nguyen Manh.
2) Vu Van Thanh – Defender – Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC
Vu Van Thanh played a starring role for Park’s team as they reached the final of the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship in China and the semifinals of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. However, the 22-year-old right-back suffered an injury during HAGL FC’s V.League fixture against Ho Chi Minh City FC last year ruling him out of the victorious AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 campaign as well as the AFC Asian Cup 2019. The 23-year-old has now returned to full fitness and is likely to reclaim his full-back at the Vietnam national team during the King’s Cup.
3) Nguyen Tuan Anh – Midfielder – Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC
Another star whose career has been hindered by injuries, Nguyen Tuan Anh hasn’t wore the red of Vietnam since going down to a serious injury in 2016. A product of HAGL Arsenal JMG Academy, the 24-year-old even had an impressive stint with Japanese second division side Yokohama FC in 2016 before injury curtailed his fledgling career. With plenty of experience playing and impressing for the U-19 and U-23 national teams, the HAGL FC midfielder will be hoping to repeat the same for the senior national team now that he has shaken off his injury worries.
4) Nguyen Anh Duc – Forward – Becamex Binh Duong FC
It came as a shocker for Vietnamese football fans when Nguyen Anh Duc’s name went missing from the squad named by their South Korean tactician for the Asian Cup 2019. The veteran striker was pivotal in Vietnam lifting the AFF Suzuki Cup last year, but Park later explained that the 33-year-old had decided to retire from international football. Almost six months on, Anh Duc has decided to come out of retirement and could lead the line for the Golden Dragons. In the meantime, Anh Duc has also helped his club side Becamex Binh Duong reach the ASEAN Zonal Semifinals of the AFC Cup 2019 scoring twice in the group stages.
5) Nguyen Cong Phuong – Forward – Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC
Nguyen Cong Phuong isn’t exactly making a comeback to the national team having played a key role at the Asian Cup, but he will be determined to impress his coach and restore some self confidence after a failed stint at K League club Incheon United. The 24-year-old had signed on a season-long deal at the South Korean club, but had to cut short his stint with chances coming far and few between. He is expected to go on a month-long trial at a French second division club now, but the two games in King’s Cup could be a huge boost for the striker if he can get back among the goals for Vietnam.