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Vietnam's 10 sports stories of 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is still hitting the world of sport hard but 2021 will always be remembered as a year of stunning "first times" for Vietnamese athletes, as well as a few moments of heartbreak for the nation. 

1. Vietnam reach the final round of World Cup qualifiers for the first time

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Nguyen Quang Hai (19) celebrates after scoring the second goal in a 4-0 win against Indonesia. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Linh

Despite a 3-2 defeat away to the UAE in the last match of the second-round qualifiers, Vietnam advanced to the World Cup third-round qualification for the first time in history.

Competing in Group G against Southeast Asian rivals like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, Park Hang–seo’s men went on an unbeaten run and even defeated the UAE 1-0 in the first leg, who were considered a much stronger team in the group.

Even though the national team is still yet to win any points in the final round, this achievement will always be remembered as a symbol of hope for a brighter future for Vietnamese football.

2. 2021 V.League cancelled without a champion being crowned for the first time in history

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Their best performance in recent years couldn’t help HAGL become champion again due to the COVID–19 pandemic. — Photo laodong.vn

The Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) in September passed a resolution to officially cancel all professional football tournaments in Vietnam in 2021, including the top-flight V. League 1 for the first time in the 41-year history of the tournament.

League leaders Hoang Anh Gia Lai were not crowned champions even though they were leading the table at the time. 

Promotion and relegation were also not applied to the V. League or First Division.

After 12 rounds of the 2021 V. League, Gia Lai were leading the table with 29 points, three points ahead of Viettel.

3. First WBO belt for Vietnam

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Nguyen Thi Thu Nhi celebrates after winning the WBO belt in Ansan, South Korea. — Photo courtesy of the organiser

Nguyen Thi Thu Nhi became Vietnam's first World Boxing Organisation champion after winning the WBO belt in Ansan, South Korea.

The Vietnamese boxer took the title via a unanimous decision. Two judges scored Nhi with 96 points, two more than her Japanese rival Etsuko Tada, after 10 rounds of the women's mini-flyweight title fight.

She made history as the first-ever Vietnamese boxer to win a professional WBO belt.

4. Le Van Cong won Paralympic silver in powerlifting

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Le Van Cong of Vietnam won silver in the men's 49kg powerlifting event. — Photo courtesy of Vu Trong Hai

Paralympic weightlifter Le Van Cong lifted the nation’s spirits by taking a stunning silver medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Vietnam’s first and only medal at the games.

In incredible scenes, Cong was pipped at the post, not because his opponent lifted more, but because Cong was 100 grams heavier. Under Paralympic rules, if weightlifting is tied the higher placing goes to the lighter athlete.

While the 37-year-old Vietnamese athlete could not retain his gold medal from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, which he took after setting a record of 183kg, he nevertheless exceeded expectations as he has suffered from severe tendonitis and a left clavicle arthritis injury since the start of the year.

5. Vietnam futsal falls to Russia – again

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The Vietnam national futsal team pose with Vu Duc Tung's shirt (who suffered a serious injury in the group stage) before the match against Russia. — Photo courtesy of VFF

Vietnam were knocked out of the Futsal World Cup by old foes Russia, losing 3-2 in the last eight of the cup in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The Vietnamese team fell to the same opponents at the exact same stage of the previous tournament.

They are the only team from Asia to have made the last eight not once, but twice, in consecutive tournaments.

6. Quach Thi Lan reaches Olympic semi-finals

Quach Thi Lan made Olympic history after she advanced to the women’s 400m hurdles semi-finals in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Vietnamese runner placed fifth in Heat 3 of qualifications, with a time of 55.71 seconds. It was her seasonal best but was not initially enough for her to qualify for the semi-finals.

However, after Jamaican Leah Nugent was disqualified for a lane infringement error, Lan was promoted to fourth place and secured a slot in the next round.

Lan was the first Vietnamese representative to compete in an athletic semi-finals at any Games.

She was the only Asian representative among 24 athletes in the semi-finals.  

7. Vietnam postponed the 31st Southeast Asian Games  

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Vietnam is ready to host the SEA Games 31. — Photo baodansinh.vn

Vietnam’s dream of hosting the biggest games of the region for the second time had to be shelved until next year, due to the COVID–19 pandemic.

The 31st SEA Games had been due to take place in November and December this year, but was delayed because of rising COVID-19 case numbers in Vietnam.

The Games will now take place in Hanoi and 11 other northern provinces between May 5 and May 23, 2022. 

Vietnam successfully hosted the Games in 2003 and is expected to lead the medal table next year.

8. Nguyen Tien Minh appears in his fourth Olympic Games

Despite losing his first match at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, a 0-2 defeat to the world's third-ranked badminton athlete Anders Antonsen, Nguyen Tien Minh still made his country proud. 

The 38-year-old was the first badminton player in the history of Vietnam to play in four consecutive Olympics, an achievement that may take a long time to topple. 

9. Dang Van Lam - the first Vietnamese player to start in AFC Champions League 

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Dang Van Lam is expected to return to his best form after suffering from a shoulder injury in September. — Photo courtesy of Cerezo Osaka

Van Lam has made history as the first Vietnamese player to ever start in the AFC Champions League, turning out for Cerezo Osaka against Guangzhou. 

Russia-born goalkeeper Lam exceeded expectations and kept a clean sheet and his side ran away 5-0 to win.

Lam is expected to keep the nation’s dream of exporting players overseas alive, following the example of players like Doan Van Hau and Nguyen Cong Phuong in the past.

10. Vietnam relinquish AFF Cup title after aggregate loss to Thailand

A low note at the end of a successful year for Vietnamese sport. A goalless draw against Thailand at the Kailang National Stadium in Singapore ended Vietnam's AFF Cup defence with a whimper.

Entering the tournament as the defending champions and the only Southeast Asian team to compete in the World Cup final round qualifier, Vietnam were widely considered favourites to retain the crown. However, goal difference saw the Golden Star Warriors slip to second place of Group B, leading them to face Thailand in the semi-finals.

In the first leg, huge mistakes from the defence, along with Nguyen Quang Hai’s unlucky strikes that hit the post twice, gave Park’s men a deficit that they could not overturn in the second leg.

Source: Vietnam News

Young female boxer crowned WBO world champion

Young female boxer crowned WBO world champion

Thu Nhi, a martial artist, was inspired to enter the ring after a difficult upbringing led her to believe that she could alter her life through competition. Nhi now aspires to reaffirm the national spirit on a global scale as well.

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