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HAGL midfielder Vuong revitalised under Thai coach

Tran Minh Vuong did not join his teammates in the box and stood outside the area waiting for his chance from a corner kick.

Midfielder Tran Minh Vuong celebrates his goal in the 2018 Asian Games semi-final between Vietnam and South Korea. Vuong is in good form and could be in line for a national team spot. Photo

The ball was headed out and found him, giving the midfielder the chance to guide home a superb volley.

The strike, which gave Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) a 2-0 lead over Nam Dinh before they won 4-3 on Monday, was Vuong’s third goal of the season.

Three goals in nine matches is a good sign for the 25-year-old who has found top form again and is aiming for a berth in the national team.

Born in 1995 in the northern province of Thai Binh, Vuong had a love for football at an early age and was luckier than many friends as he received strong support from parents to follow his passion at the age of 11.

In 2007, was admitted to the HAGL Arsenal JMG Football Academy’s (now HAGL JMG) first training course.

It seemed Vuong would be teammates of the current stars such as Nguyen Cong Phuong, Luong Xuan Truong and Nguyen Tuan Anh. However, that wasn't to be, at least initially.

Vuong failed to make the top grade and was chosen for the second-level course in Pleiku. Players of this class were considered the back-ups of Phuong’s generation.

Vuong, whose father died of a stroke several days after his recruitment, was the best of the class and voted the captain thanks to his hard work and talent.

“I have trained many players but Vuong is the most special one. He is not only talented and excellent in his profession but also strong and brave in life,” said coach Dinh Hong Vinh.

Coach Duong Minh Ninh said he was lucky to have the chance to coach such a professional player like Vuong. He knew his advantages and disadvantages and worked hard to fix his problems even on days off.

“Everybody can see him train with or without teammates and coaches. He never gets tired of sharpening his skills especially long passes and free-kicks. He is a good player on the pitch and an ethical man off it,” Ninh said.

Six years after joining the academy, Vuong made his debut in the V.League 1 in 2013, two years earlier than HAGL’s top-class players.

A year later, the 18-year-old was named the V.League 1’s Best Young Player of the Year.

Vuong played a key role in HAGL’s squad that finished second in the national U19 tournament in 2014. He was called up to the national team that won silver at the Southeast Asian U19 Championship the same year.

Four years later, he was in the national team that finished fourth at the Asian Games. It is the best result for Vietnam at the tournament ever and though they lost 3-1 to South Korea in the semi-finals, Vuong scored against top South Korean goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo.

In 2019 Vuong and his teammates secured a silver at the King’s Cup in Thailand.

It was also a season during which he netted 12 goals in 23 matches and was the top Vietnamese scorer. He also secured a berth in the V.League 1’s best XI.

However, 2020 was a disappointing year for Vuong as he spent most of his time on the bench because of a leg injury. He could play only 11 matches with no goals and HAGL struggled.

The attacking midfielder, who controversially posted "Spending whole youth to avoid relegation" on his Facebook in regards to the 2020 season, is now shining once again.

Hoang Anh Gia Lai's Tran Minh Vuong (left) vies for a ball against Nam Dinh's Hoang Xuan Tan during their match on Monday. Photo courtesy of VPF

HAGL this season hired former player and coach Kiatisuk Senamuang as their coach. The Thai ‘Zico’ has revitalised the team and Vuong.

His first goal this year was when HAGL beat Song Lam Nghe An 2-1 in January.

“I started the season with tension. But a goal after 15 months helped me release all my worries and pressure,” said Vuong.

“I found my competitive feeling and was confident with my performance. I was also happy because I again contributed to the team’s win,” he said.

The goal against Nam Dinh on Monday was his 37th in 140 matches for HAGL, making him the club's record goalscorer.

Coach Senamuang has allowed Vuong’s talent to shine and Vuong is glad he came to Vietnam.

“Our coach has changed our football philosophy and competitive spirit.

“He has brought positive colours to our football. He tells us to compete with 100 per cent and more. He encourages us to be strong as warriors and I promise that we will have many things to watch in the future,” said Vuong.

Although HAGL lead the league for the first time in five years, Vuong is keeping his feet on the ground and his mind focused.

“Every game is difficult. It's not only me that has to try and keep my position but the whole team must concentrate. We always keep in mind our determination to win. Our priority target is the top six after the first period. Our current No 1 place is a push for us to be ready for a long race,” said Vuong.

Vuong also expects to earn a recall to coach Park’s team in 2021.

“I have not been the coaches’ first choice. They have reasons. Maybe I am not good enough in their eyes and I need to find and improve my weaknesses. It is the only way to join the national team,” said Vuong.

“I believe that challenges that we meet in life would be strong pushes for success later on. I am always ready whenever called for the nation.”


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