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Viettel FC turn focus to conquering Asia

A mere two seasons after being promoted back into the V.League 1, Viettel FC have done the incredible and won the league.

Viettel celebrate winning the V.League 1’s title. Photo

Following domestic success, Viettel now have their sights set on the continent's premier competition, AFC Champions League.

"Next year, Viettel will participate in the AFC Champions League. I will try to work with the team to have the best results. The team will be determined to have the best image in this international event,” said coach Truong Viet Hoang.

For the first time, Vietnam will have up to three representatives in Asain Football Confederation (AFC) tournaments next year, with Viettel straight to the group stages of the AFC Champions League, while Hanoi and Sai Gon will play in the AFC Cup.

Tears of Viettel players have fallen in the burst of happiness. — Photo

“Viettel are very strong and have many players trained by themselves. They are a team with many traditions. And the tradition of The Cong (earlier Viettel were The Cong) of playing internationally was very good. But that time has long gone, Viettel just came back the national premier league so in the next season they will invest and play the best they can,” said pundit Vu Quang Huy.

“Viettel got a ticket to go straight into the group stage of the AFC Champions League in which they will meet very difficult opponents from South Korea, Japan, and Australia. They will be the representative that brings the Vietnamese spirit to the international arena. The AFC event is a great arena, but if Viettel get through the group stage I will not be surprised. They have people ready for the international arena,” said Huy.

While Viettel may be confident, the side lack international experience and won the V.League 1 with a pretty pragmatic way of playing, which may not translate to a higher level of competition.

Hanoi FC were successful in the AFC Cup 2019 and reached the event’s inter-regional fina, the best a Vietnamese side has ever performed in the competition. Hanoi's success was built on technical skill, allowing them to overcome more physically impressive opponents.

Coach Hoang once planned to play beautiful football with Viettel, but that idea was sacrificed for efficiency, and it worked at the domestic level.

According to coach Hoang, Viettel will have to consider two goals, namely protecting the V.League throne and making an impression in the Champions League.

“I have not made a staffing decision but will have to discuss it carefully with the club leaders. Depending on the specific time to reconcile interests between parties. But surely Viettel will try to compete for the highest results. Viettel's goal in 2021 is to successfully defend the V.League 1 championship and compete well in the AFC event,” said Hoang.

Captain Bui Tien Dung of Viettel said: “In the jersey of the club, we face two great challenges: how to not be relegated in the biggest tournament in the country, and in the AFC Champions League, we also have to play to be worthy of a military team”.

Captain Bui Tien Dung celebrate after his team won the V.League 1. — Photo

Philosophical fulcrum

The foundation for Viettel's success has been their ability to defend and they kept six clean sheets in the event matches of the second leg of the season, conceding only once to Hoang Anh Gia Lai in a 4-1 win for Viettel.

Thanks to their strong defence, Viettel only needed to score one goal to win three points and yet the back four was the same as in the 2019 season when Viettel finished six and conceded a lot of goals.

Viettel have quality players, but clearly, a large part of this year's success must have been down to the work of coach Hoang.

Viettel wanted to play beautifully but at the beginning of the season, the team had only five points after five matches and had conceded 12 goals. They even ranked at the bottom after a 2-1 defeat to Thanh Hoa, a match that marked a change in the mindset of Viettel.

Hoang then firmly built his defence, requiring all 11 players to focus on defensive work first and foremost, with strikers Bruno Cunha Cantanhede and Caique Venancio defending from the front.

This meant Viettel players always had to work their socks off for 90 minutes.

“Hopefully next year the audience will be more crowded, thanks to the positive effect from Viettel's championship. Many other teams will also play better, more determined a d fair after they see Viettel's successful example. New investors will appear. In Vietnamese football, where there are about a dozen teams like Viettel, the audience is happy and the football background will be stronger,” said Doan Nguyen Duc, chairman of Hoang Anh Gia Lai.  VNS

Thanh Nga

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