Quang Hai in 24-man shortlist for Best Footballer in Asia 2019

Monday, 2019-12-16 10:30:30
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Quang Hai wears the captain armband during Vietnam U22s’ gold medal campaign in the recently-concluded SEA Games 2019 in the Philippines. (Photo: NDO/Minh Phu)
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NDO – Vietnam’s star midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai has been named within the 24-man shortlist for the Best Footballer in Asia 2019.

>>> Vietnam U23s commence training camp in ROK to prepare for upcoming continental tournament

>>> Young players to train in RoK for Asian U23 champs

It is a prestigious annual association football award organised and presented by Titan Sports – the most circulated sports newspaper in China – to honour the player who had the best performance for Asian football during the previous calendar year, since 2013. The winner is voted by nearly 50 sport journalists representing Asian countries.

Journalist Truong Anh Ngoc is the only Vietnamese representative to vote for this year’s award. When asked by Titan Sports to make Vietnam’s nominations for the Best Footballer in Asia 2019, Ngoc chose Vietnam’s national senior team members Do Hung Dung and Nguyen Quang Hai. However, the 24-man list in the end only includes 22-year-old midfielder Quang Hai.

Notably, this is the second consecutive year Hai has appeared in the nomination list by Titan Sports.

Both Quang Hai and Hung Dung have had a successful year with Vietnamese teams as well as their Hanoi FC. At the beginning of the year, both were the main nucleus of the Vietnam squad that reached the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup 2019.

Both Quang Hai (left) and Hung Dung have had a successful year with Vietnamese teams as well as their Hanoi FC.

Quang Hai continued to shine in the 2020 AFC U23 Qualifiers, helping Vietnam defeat Thailand 4-0 in their final group match to win tickets to the finals with a convincing top spot in Group K after three consecutive wins without conceding any goal.

In the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the Asian zone, both Dung and Hai played a crucial role in coach Park Hang-seo's squad, contributing greatly to the team’s top spot in Group G after five matchdays. And the latest, the duo continued to be in the component of Vietnam U22s which won the historic first gold medal ever in men’s soccer in the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, which wrapped up in the Philippines on December 11.

The success of Hung Dung and Quang Hai is also adorned with dazzling feats at the club level. The most notable of which are the V.League and the National Cup titles in 2019, as well as the first ever final berth for Vietnam in the AFC Cup Inter-zonal Finals.

Despite winning a lot of significant glory in the year, it will not be easy for Quang Hai to win the award, as he has to compete with a series of talented players like Tottenham Hotspur’s striker Son Heung-min or 2019 AFC Champions League top scorer Bafetimbi Gomis of Al-Hilal. Son Heung-min was the winner for the two consecutive years, in 2017 and 2018, and also won the most, having been announced as winner of the award four times since 2013.

Currently, Hai is with Vietnam U23 squad for a training camp in the Republic of Korea (ROK) in preparation for the 2020 AFC U23 Championship in Thailand next January. His superb free kick in the snow in the final match of the 2018 edition has been voted by the Asian Football Federation (AFC) as one of the eight iconic goals of the tournament since its inception in 2013.

“While Uzbekistan won the tournament, Nguyen Quang Hai captured imagination with his 'Rainbow in the Snow' in the final – one of five superb goals by the midfielder – providing one of the most iconic moments the competition has ever seen”, AFC wrote about Hai’s superb goal.

Let's watch the super goal "Rainbow in the Snow" by Quang Hai. (Video: AFC)

It can be said that the free-kick against Uzbekistan U23s in the snowy final match of the 2018 AFC U23 Championship in China is one of the most meaningful goals for Quang Hai personally, and is also one of the best moments of Vietnamese football in two successful years under the leadership of coach Park Hang-seo.

Although Vietnam U23s unfortunately lost 2-1 to eventual champions Uzbekistan in the last minute of the extra time, Quang Hai's super goal has certainly been entered into the history of Vietnamese football and will remain forever in the hearts of fans, as well as will be mentioned much later as a symbol of pride, fighting spirit and the desire to win of Vietnamese football.

Previously, AFC also selected five most memorable matches in the history of the biennial international tournament, including two matches with the participation of Park Hang-seo's side from their impressive runners-up campaign in China in 2018.

The first is the dramatic 3-3 draw of Vietnam against Iraq after 120 minutes of extra time in the quarterfinals last year, before the Southeast Asian outfit progressed to the semi-finals after defeating their opponents 5- 3 in the penalty shootout.

Quang Hai's goal in the heavy snow in Changzhou goes into the history of the AFC U23 tournament. (Photo: AFC)

The remaining match is the historic final against Uzbekistan U23s in the snow at the Changzhou Olympic Sports Centre in Changzhou. Vietnam were behind only after seven minutes under the severe weather condition and heavy snow, but their tireless efforts paid off, crystallised in Quang Hai's super free kick to level the score 1-1. “A match that had everything, including the iconic 'Rainbow In The Snow' goal that went down in Vietnamese footballing folklore. It was the end of a remarkable campaign for the ASEAN country, one which will live long in the hearts of their supporters, and it was a deserving finale to conclude a memorable tournament”, AFC wrote.

Two years after that historic journey, Quang Hai and his teammates are preparing to enter a new challenge in the Thai tournament early next year. However, unlike underdogs in the 2018 tournament, Park's side will enter the 2020 AFC U23 Championship with the position of the reigning runners-up. Vietnam are in Group D with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Jordan and the UAE.

After winning the historic SEA Games gold medal, Park’s side are in the ROK for their short training camp from December 13 to 21, before returning to Vietnam in December 22 for the final preparation. They will leave for Thailand early next year to compete
in the tournament, which will take place between January 8-26, 2020.

TRUNG HUNG