Nguyen Quang Hai listed AFC U23's top best players in history hinh anh 1Nguyen Quang Hai celebrates after scoring his life-time goal ‘Rainbow in the Snow' during the 2018 AFC Asian U23 Cup. Hải is one the tournament's top 10 talents. (Photo:
As the biennial AFC U23 Asian Cup was officially kicked off on April 15, the continental football governing body has spotlighted Vietnamese Nguyen Quang Hai in the list of the top 10 players who showcased their talent at previous editions and look to continue their rise to prominence.

"Many of those who have stood out for their countries over the years have gone on to become key performers for their senior national teams and represent some of the biggest clubs in Asia and beyond," said the AFC report.

Midfielder Hai was one of the most successful players in Vietnam's squad at the 2018 tournament in Changzhou, China, where Vietnam made its best ever result at a continental competition, finishing at second place.

"It’s not often a goal gets a name of its own but Vietnam's youngster Nguyen Quang Hai’s magnificent free kick against Uzbekistan in the 2018 final has that honour after coming to be known as the ‘Rainbow in the Snow’. Even though the Southeast Asians narrowly missed out on the title, the tournament showcased Hai's talent to the world," the website reads.

"Hai notched up five goals in Vietnam’s historic run to the final, including a brace against the United Arab Emirates in a thrilling semi-final, and went on to be named the MVP when Park Hang-seo’s side overcame Malaysia to win the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Cup in 2018. He also played an instrumental role when the Golden Star Warriors made it to the final eight of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup."

Not only shining internationally, Hai was also key member of Hanoi FC, helping the club to win national premier league titles in 2018, 2019 and 2022, the National Cup in 2019, 2020, 2022 and the Super Cup in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022, although in the 2022 season he played only half time before moving to Pau FC in the French Ligue 2.

Returning to Vietnam last year, he signed a contract with defending champions Hanoi Police. After a short time struggling to find his form, Hai is now the best local scorer with six goals in V-League 1 after 15 rounds.

Other players honoured by the AFC include forward Takuma Asano of Japan, right winger Suphanat Mueanta of Thailand, striker Firas Al-Buraikan of Saudi Arabia, midfielder Lee Kang In of South Korea and left winger Akram Afif of Qatar.

At this year's cup, Vietnam will play in Group D with Kuwait, Uzbekistan and Malaysia.

The AFC took an in-depth look at the teams and predicted Vietnam to have opportunity to enter the next round.

"Led by the impressive Nguyen Quang Hai, Vietnam went close to becoming the first Southeast Asian team to win the competition when they reached the final in 2018, only to be outdone by Uzbekistan in extra time," it posted.

"Vietnam qualified for the Finals after topping Group C with seven points. Initial wins against Guam (6-0) and Yemen (1-0) meant that the Golden Star Warriors secured their passage with a game to spare, before a much-changed side drew 2-2 with Singapore in their final match.

"With seven national team players including Nguyen Thai Son and Khuat Van Khang in the squad, Vietnam will be stronger contenders for a spot in the knockout stage."

The Vietnamese team are not given any mission at this tournament. However, coach Hoang Anh Tuan set it himself.

"Actually, the Vietnam Football Federation and I personally always have goals before each tournament. However, in this difficult time, VFF does not place heavy responsibility on us, asking us to play as best as possible," said Tuan.

"VFF does not set goal, but we want to set it ourselves. We will play with highest determination and great effort to at least get through the group stage."/.VNS