Sanna Khanh Hoa’s Youssouf Toure eager to make his mark

Scott McIntyre Scott McIntyre

As far as imports hitting the ground running in Southeast Asia few have been more impressive than Youssouf Toure.

The key man for Vietnamese outfit Sanna Khanh Hoa ahead of the second leg of the Mekong Cup final against Muangthong United, the 31-year-old has burst onto the scene in a way that few before him have.

Having only signed for the coastal club in September he scored a goal on his league debut in a win over Ho Chi Minh City FC then grabbed a further four over the close of the domestic season at better than a goal every two games.

Even then he entered the Toyota Mekong Club Championships as something of an unknown quantity but that’s certainly no longer the case.

Turning in a man-of-the match showing as he grabbed a first-leg hat-trick at home to Cambodian side Boeung Ket in the first round he backed that up with a second leg brace to help his side book a semifinal date with Lao Toyota.

The French-born forward then proceeded to score the winner in a 2-0 victory and continue his sparkling form to grab the lone goal in his side’s 3-1 first leg loss in the final.

That makes it a frankly astonishing seven goals in just four matches and he’s already stamped his name as one of the most impressive finishers in the history of the MCC.

It was little wonder then that he was a man in demand when FOX Sports Asia was at the first round match last month in Hanoi where a mixture of languages – Vietnamese, French and English – filled the night air, with all hoping to hear the thoughts of this dynamic striker.

Ahead of the crunch second-leg tie that will decide the Mekong Cup champion we did just that as FOX Sports Asia speaks exclusively with the man who could decide the destination of the title.

FSA: Youssouf, thanks for speaking with FOX Sports Asia at a busy time as you prepare for the second leg of the final. You’re facing a difficult situation having to travel to Thailand with a 3-1 first leg loss. Is the team confident that you can still win?

YT: It is true that we know that we are in difficulty but we must give our all – every single player – in order not to ensure that we don’t leave this match with any regrets.

FSA: What are the key points to get the win you need in the second match?

YT: Even though it will be difficult we know we need to make a strong and fast start and that we must try to score as soon as possible to put some doubt in the mind of the Muangthong side.

FSA: You need three goals to win so obviously you must attack. How many risks can you take in this attacking style?

YT: We have to make sure that we play positively at all times and when the chances appear in front of goal then we have to be sure that we convert them and that will be the key to our success in this match.

FSA: Personally, you have had a wonderful tournament, scoring many goals – what do you think about your own performance?

YT: For sure, I’m happy with what I have produced so far in the tournament but our work and my work is not yet finished. There remains this final match and I hope to continue my momentum for this last match.

Toure in action against Muangthong.

FSA: In the first leg, Muangthong was aware of your danger and always had defenders close to you – this might be the situation again in Thailand. How can you try to still impact the match with the kind of man-marking that you saw in the first leg?

YT: Luckily I do not play alone and I know that even if Muangthong decide to follow me around the pitch then that will offer opportunities to my teammates and we will play as a team to ensure we can win this match.

FSA: You are still new to football in Southeast Asia but have you been surprised by the standard in the different countries?

YT: Not especially, no. Football is the same everywhere but what is different is the speed of the game in Europe where things are a lot faster so it’s just a process of making sure that I can adapt to my teammates and that they can adapt to the way that I like to play the game but I think that we’re on the right path.

The supporters of Sanna Khanh Hoa and everyone involved in the club will certainly hope that’s the case as they face the mammoth task of trying to overturn a first-leg deficit against one of the region’s finest club sides as the curtain is finally closed on the 2017 season in Southeast Asian football.

If the former Lille, Paris FC and US Creteil man can pilot his side to the upside – and given his exceptional form thus far even if he can’t – he may not be playing in Vietnam for much longer as he’ll surely be a key target for some of the region’s leading club sides who are searching for the kind of predatory instincts Toure offers in front of goal.