Such is the unpredictability of Vietnam’s line-up under Park Hang-seo that the team’s starting XI alone has become the topic of lively discussion.
Here is a personal take on the possible line-up.
Park is likely to stick to his usual 5-2-3 formation thanks to its flexibility, allowing his side to quickly switch from attack to defense.
Goalkeeper Dang Van Lam, who is playing for Thai club Muangthong United, will be Vietnam’s custodian. Despite having just four clean sheets in 14 appearances for Muangthong, Lam is likely to be trusted owing to his familiarity with Thai football and his experience in international competitions.
Vietnam could go with three central defenders – captain Que Ngoc Hai, Do Duy Manh and Nguyen Thanh Chung. 19-year-old star Doan Van Hau, who has done consistently well for Hanoi FC, has been all but irreplaceable as a left-back in the national team, and it will come as no surprise if he makes the starting XI again.
Park has two choices for right-back, Nguyen Trong Hoang and Vu Van Thanh. Hoang had a tournament of a lifetime at the AFC Asian Cup earlier this year, but given that he has not played in the first half of V.League 1 this season, he might not be at his best now. On the other hand, Thanh has been inspirational since his return to Hoang Anh Gia Lai after a long injury lay-off, so he could get a starting nod this time.
Recent competitions have shown that Vietnam are most vulnerable in the center, since they lack a midfielder who can keep the ball well enough to quickly start a counter-attack and actually create chances. This is where Nguyen Tuan Anh comes in, with his incisive passes and the creativity he showed in his man-of-the-match performance against Hanoi FC on matchday 12 of V. League 1. He should be partnered with Pham Duc Huy, whose tireless work, exuberant energy and ability to win duels will give Vietnam’s midfield greater strength. Their skills complement each other, and they will form a dynamic partnership in the midfield.
The comeback of creative midfielder Nguyen Tuan Anh has allowed Nguyen Quang Hai to return to his favorite position on the left flank, where he has shown that he can wreak havoc on the opposition’s defense.
Park has two options for Hai’s right counterpart, Nguyen Cong Phuong and Nguyen Van Toan. Phuong’s four-month spell in South Korea was unsuccessful. He has recently parted ways with Incheon United, and his lack of playing time might affect his form.
Meanwhile, “super sub” Toan will possibly find himself in the starting line-up on Wednesday, considering that he has done a brilliant job filling Phuong’s shoes at Hoang Anh Gia Lai with five goals in 12 matches.
Nguyen Anh Duc is likely to get a nod over Ha Duc Chinh as Vietnam centre-forward since the experienced striker is decisively more offensive, and his aerial ability will bring a greater variety to Vietnam’s attack.
Predicted starting XI: Dang Van Lam (GK), Doan Van Hau, Nguyen Thanh Chung, Que Ngoc Hai, Do Duy Manh, Vu Van Thanh, Pham Duc Huy, Nguyen Tuan Anh, Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Van Toan, Nguyen Anh Duc.
The match between Thailand and Vietnam will kick-off at 7:45 p.m. (local time) at Chang Arena in Buriram today. VnExpress International will report it live.
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