Anh Đức & Peter Cowan
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam began their defence of the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup with a stuttering 2-0 win against Laos in Singapore on Monday night.
The tournament, delayed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is a chance for coach Park Hang-seo’s men to return to winning ways after a difficult World Cup campaign, but if they are to go all the way and win it again, they will have to improve on the performance in Bishan Stadium.
Minnows Laos struggled to lay a glove on Việt Nam but battled for the entire 90 minutes and can be proud of a commendable performance.
Việt Nam started without key players Nguyễn Quang Hải and Quế Ngọc Hải, an indication perhaps of how Park anticipated the game unfolding.
Laos gave a first cap to naturalised striker Billy Ketkeophomphone, but the French Ligue 2 player was isolated up front and struggled to make an impact in the early exchanges.
Việt Nam dominated the ball in the first half but were made to wait until the 27th minute for the opening goal.
Midfielder Nguyễn Hoàng Đức played in Nguyễn Phong Hồng Duy with a delightful ball down the left, allowing the fullback to square the ball across the box. Nguyễn Công Phượng was on hand to sweep the ball home.
Despite having the lion’s share of the ball, Việt Nam were unable to create a second clear-cut opening in the opening period.
In the second half, it was more of the same with Việt Nam camped in the Laos half.
The Vietnamese made the game safe nine minutes into the second half, as Phan Văn Đức headed from an accurate cross from Hồ Tấn Tài.
While the two-goal lead ensure Việt Nam would be leaving with all three points, they struggled to create decent chances to put a gloss on the game.
Indeed Laos almost pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute through Ketkeophomphone when the striker went through on goal, but goalkeeper Trần Nguyên Mạnh was equal to the effort.
Việt Nam immediately broke on the counter and won a penalty when Vũ Văn Thanh’s shot his Chitpasong Latthachack’s hand.
Thanh stepped up to take the spot kick, but his tame effort was easily saved by goalkeeper Keo-Oudone Souvannasangso.
The match petered out from there, with the Lao players dead on their feet and Việt Nam unable to make another breakthrough.
Park’s men will next face Malaysia on Sunday and if they are to come away with a second win, a better performance will be needed.
Việt Nam face player shortage in run-up to Australia clash
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam’s World Cup qualifying campaign will resume against Australia in just six days but a shortage of available players is causing a headache for coach Park Hang–seo.
COVID-19, injuries, suspensions and visa issues are the four main problems at the moment.
A week after testing positive with COVID-19, Nguyễn Tiến Linh is now fully recovered. However, Linh hasn’t yet completed the quarantine period, so the 24–year–old striker can’t meet the visa deadline to enter Australia.
This is also the case for Hoàng Anh Gia Lai striker Nguyễn Văn Toàn.
Linh’s absence is a big loss for Việt Nam. Despite only scoring twice in the AFF Cup, he is still Việt Nam’s best attacking asset.
In 2021, Linh scored seven goals. He also scored in the final three matches of the World Cup second qualifying round in June, helping Việt Nam enter the third-round for the first time.
In this round of qualifiers, Linh found the net against China and Oman, two strong opponents.
After Linh and Toàn tested positive, South Korean oach Park called up Trần Phi Sơn and Ngân Văn Đại, but the duo have since faced visa issues as they were not on the original invitation list of the host Australia.
Việt Nam’s remaining striker Hà Đức Chinh and midfielder Nguyễn Tuấn Anh are also out due to injuries.
The bad luck continues as former captain Quế Ngọc Hải is suspended, having received two yellow cards in previous matches.
The absence of these seven important players, coupled with a strong Australian side looking to qualify for their sixth World Cup, has created a difficult puzzle for coach Park to try and solve.
Việt Nam will face Australia in Melbourne on January 27 before hosting China at home on February 1 in their remaining world cup final qualifiers campaign.
The national team have yet to win any points and are rooted to the bottom of Group B. —
Problems keep on mounting for Everton
One step forward, a million back. That just about sums up the general goings on at Everton Football Club these days.
It’s not a good time to be a Blue. One win in 13, defeat last week to the team at the bottom of the league, and languishing perilously close to the relegation zone.
Rafa Benitez got the bullet, and for the time being, club legend Duncan Ferguson has taken charge of the first team.
Next up for Everton is Aston Villa, and with former Liverpool captain Steve Gerrard in charge, more salt could be very well rubbed into Everton’s already gaping wound.
But the problem for the Blues isn’t really about the next game, or the one after that, and after that. Everton’s long-term problems are nothing short of gargantuan right now.
I accept there’s money being spent on a new stadium, and from the artist’s impression I’ve seen of the design, it looks amazing.
But Everton’s problems go beyond a few wins over the next few weeks.
I’ve no doubt Big Dunc will get the crowd buzzing, but the issues at Goodison Park are far more deep routed. Everton, I feel, have completely lost their identity. They have become a nothing, meaningless club.
There was talk this week that one name in the frame for the manager’s position is Roberto Martinez, the current manager of the Belgium national team and, of course, former manager of Everton.
Word on the street is the Belgium football authorities are unlikely to allow their national team manager to do both jobs, but the fact that he was even being considered speaks volumes for the lack of ambition currently displayed by Everton.
Martinez won nothing with Everton, and after an OK points tally in his first season (with a team almost entirely inherited from previous boss David Moyes) the former Wigan manager just went from bad to worse.
As his tenure was coming to an end, supporters had become disillusioned and made their anger known.
What followed after Martinez was basically a revolving door of managers who came and went without so much as threatening to bring back the glory days to Goodison.
Money was spent as well, a lot, and the backing from the board has been decent, especially compared to other mid-table Premier League teams.
But the cash was spent really badly, and now it’s Everton supporters that are paying the price.
Other names have been mentioned, Frank Lampard, Jose Mourinho, former Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac, and even Wayne Rooney.
Rooney is doing wonders in his current job with Derby County, his first in management, but I feel he still lacks the experience to take over at Everton.
None of what I’ve written here will really bring any hope to the Everton faithful, but I don’t know what I can say to change that.
Everton are lost, a shadow of their former selves, and are light years away from getting anywhere close to challenging for trophies.
Whoever does get the job is going to be in for a real eyeopener when he walks into Goodison Park, so maybe their best bet is to give Duncan Ferguson a chance.
Unlikely they will get relegated this season, there are still three teams or more worse than Everton, but at least with Big Dunc he knows the job at hand.
New captain Dũng aims for Tết special against China
HÀ NỘI — Returning after a serious leg-break almost a year ago, Đỗ Hùng Dũng is back in the national squad and, with the captain’s armband, is ready to stamp his authority on Việt Nam’s remaining World Cup qualifiers against Australia, China, Oman and Japan.
The national team will face China at the Mỹ Đình stadium on the first day of Lunar New Year, a game that will mean a lot for Dũng.
“This will be a unique Tết celebration and we hope we can bring a very special performance to match,” Dũng said.
“As we know, the Mỹ Đình stadium will welcome about 20,000 fans to watch the national team face China on the first day of Lunar New Year.
“With that many fans, it will be a huge motivation for us. We hope for a great performance, but remember to comply with the pandemic prevention regulations when cheering for us.
“Of course, I will miss my family when we play during Tết, as this is one of very few family-gathering occasions, but it will still be special for me,” said the 28-year-old midfielder.
Returning to football after an awful tackle in a game against Hồ Chí Minh City FC sidelined him in March last year, Dũng has put his all into getting back into the form that saw him win the Vietnamese Golden Ball in 2019.
Despite being advised not to rush his recovery, Dũng never says “No” when his nation calls.
By the end of 2021, he was ready to play ago, though missed out on a chance to play at the AFF Suzuki Cup in Singapore due to a paperwork issue.
The newly-appointed national-side captain knows he has big shoes to fill in taking over from Quế Ngọc Hải, but isn’t lacking confidence.
“I’m fully confident in myself,” Dũng said.
“We all trust each other explicitly; players and coaching staff. Myself or anyone else with this responsibility will always motivate the team to do the best.
“Of course, before being called up Coach Park consulted the medical department on how to get us into the best shape and condition to compete at the highest level.
“That’s why I am confident and will put in the best performance possible for the nation.”
Việt Nam will face Australia away on January 27th and China at home on February 1st. The national team have yet to win any points and are rooted to the bottom of Group B. —
Future is now
15,935 new coronavirus cases recorded on Friday
Update of COVID-19 new cases in Việt Nam on Jan. 21 afternoon
Health ministry plans to buy 21.9m Pfizer COVID vaccine doses for children aged 5-11
Efforts made to stop consumption of dog and cat meat in Việt Nam
Tourism 2021: opens today, closes tomorrow
Environmental protection tax on jet fuel to be cut by half in 2022
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