Vietnam face challenges before clash with Japan

Vietnam’s national team will be without their top scorer, one of their core centre backs and their trusty translator before their last match in the World Cup qualifiers against Japan in Saitama on March 28.
Vietnam face challenges before clash with Japan ảnh 1Vietnam players in their first training session after arriving in Japan. (Photo courtesy of Vietnam Football Federation)
Hanoi (VNS/VNA) – Vietnam’s national team will be without their top scorer, one of their core centre backs and their trusty translator before their last match in the World Cup qualifiers against Japan in Saitama on March 28.

Centre forward Nguyen Tien Linh, who scored eight goals in this qualifying campaign, surprisingly on par with Robert Lewandowski and two goals ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, is out with a nasty muscle tear.

In defence, Vietnam's in-form defender Nguyen Thanh Chung was booked for two successive matches and is suspended.

Rising star Nguyen Hoang Duc is still out because of COVID-19, and the Vietnamese midfield now has only four players for the Japan trip: Hung Dung, Quang Hai, Tuan Anh and Hoang Anh.

And if that's not worse enough, the team translator, Le Huy Khoa also tested positive for COVID-19, and 15 players who came into close contact with him are currently separated from the team for monitoring.

Outside of the injuries and absences, Coach Park must deal with another problem involving starters who are out of form. Vu Van Thanh, a former hero who scored the winning penalty in Changzhou that took Vietnam to the 2018 AFC U23 Championship final, is now facing critics from both the public and experts after his poor performance on Thursday against Oman.

The Hoang Anh Gia Lai right-back lost possession a staggering twenty times in that match, according to statistics website SofaScore. Pundits have warned Thanh needs to buck up his ideas if he still wants a place in the line-up in the future.

But there are still positive signs that Park and the fans could look forward to on March 29. Keeper Dang Van Lam has fully recovered from injury and is currently in Japan, ready to join the team. Lam is one of Vietnam's best goalkeepers, with a great physique that would help strengthen Vietnam's defence, especially in set pieces.

Young players such as Duc Chien, Thanh Binh, Van Nam and Hoang Anh, all eligible for the SEA Games in May, might be given a chance in Vietnam's last game in the World Cup Qualifiers. An opportunity to compete against continental stars such as Takumi Minamino, Takefusa Kubo and Maya Yoshida does not come often, and with a chance like that comes precious experience.

"Many people said that I don't give chances to young players," said coach Park in the post-match press conference on Thursday.

"However, I think young players should prove themselves in training and preparation first, that way I can give them the opportunities they need easier."

Their opponent, Japan, have already qualified for the World Cup after a 2-0 win against Australia last week in Melbourne. Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu can choose to rest some key players in the match against Vietnam, and this probably can be the Golden Star Warriors' chance to surprise.

The Blue Samurai seemed to be struggling against low-block defensive teams, and their strikers are not in good form either. Japan could have exited Australia with only one point, had it not been for Kaoru Mitoma's double strike in the last two minutes of the game.

The Vietnam team is not only good in defence, but they are more flexible than ever. The first ten minutes of the second half against Oman is solid proof that the men in red can attack and pressure the opponent, and only lack the finishing touches needed for a goal.

With all of those factors, it is understandable why coach Park and the team still try to emit a positive message. Vietnam will go into Saitama Stadium facing the number one team in Asia, with a belief that they could make a difference.

And if every single fan has faith in them, "The Vietnam team will have a very promising future", said Oman's manager Branko Ivankovic./.

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