Eight talking points of Vietnamese sports in 2019

Monday, 2020-01-06 10:17:49
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The Vietnam women's team celebrate winning their sixth SEA Games gold medal in the Philippines on December 8, 2019.
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NDO – 2019 witnessed a number of memorable milestones established by Vietnamese athletes. Let’s join Nhan Dan Online to look back on those impressive achievements before moving towards a new year 2020 full of belief and hope.

1. Vietnamese sports exceed target set for 30th SEA Games

Swimmer Nguyen Thi Anh Vien (C) contributes significantly to Vietnam's success at the 2019 SEA Games.

With a total of 288 medals (98 golds, 85 silvers and 105 bronzes), the Vietnam sports delegation settled for second place overall at the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games hosted by the Philippines, surpassing the target of winning 65-70 golds and attaining a top-three finish set ahead of their departure. In particular, the majority of Vietnam’s gold medals were won in Olympic events, such as athletics, swimming, wrestling and tennis, among others.

Noticeably, Vietnamese athletics continued to affirm the no. 1 position in Southeast Asia after sweeping 16 gold medals, four clear of powerhouse Thailand and surpassing their SEA Games target by five golds. At the end of the 2019 Games, the SEA Games flag was handed over to Vietnam, the host country of the next edition of the Games in 2021. This will be the second time Vietnam has taken the honour, following their successful running of the Games in 2003.

2. Vietnam dominates regional football

Head coach Park Hang-seo and his Vietnamese players celebrate their 2019 SEA Games crown.

Vietnamese football wrapped up a successful 2019 with two gold medals in both the men’s and women’s tournaments at the 30th SEA Games. Vietnam U22s quenched the country’s 60-year thirst for a maiden SEA Games title by putting away Indonesia 3-0 in the final, while the women’s team edged past archrivals Thailand 1-0 to clinch their sixth gold medal at the region’s largest sporting event, the most in the history of the SEA Games.

Earlier in the year, Mai Duc Chung’s Vietnamese side had been crowned champions at the AFF Women’s Championship in convincing fashion, which sent them through to the last round of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifiers. Meanwhile, the men’s national team, coached by Park Hang-seo, overcame a series of tough opponents in the second round of the 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers to lead Group G after going on undefeated run in the first five matchdays. Such incredible results helped Vietnamese football to conclude 2019 dominant in the Southeast Asian rankings, as world no. 94 (men’s) and world no. 32 (women’s).

3. Vietnam claims big wins at AFF Awards 2019

Tran Quoc Tuan, permanent vice president of the VFF and president of the AFC's competition committee, presents the AFF Coach of the Year award to Vietnam head coach Park Hang-seo, at the AFF Awards Night 2019 in Hanoi on November 8.

Representatives of Vietnamese football were named as winners of significant awards at the AFF Awards Night 2019 in Hanoi. Specifically, Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo beat Malaysia coach Tan Cheng Hoe to take the “AFF Coach of the Year (Men)” title, while midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai surpassed Thai star Chanathip Songkrasin to claim the “AFF Player of the Year (Men)” award for the first time.

Vietnam’s joy was multiplied as the Golden Dragons were named the AFF National Team of the Year (Men) following their triumphant 2018 AFF Cup journey as well as their amazing 2019 Asian Cup run. In addition, Tran Van Vu became the first Vietnamese futsal player to be honoured at the AFF Awards with the AFF Futsal Player of the Year title. More impressively, Vietnam had three representatives in the AFF’s Best XI of the Year, namely Nguyen Quang Hai (midfielder), Dang Van Lam (goalkeeper) and Que Ngoc Hai (defender).

4. Vietnamese tennis takes historic gold medal at SEA Games

Ly Hoang Nam clinches the first SEA Games gold medal for Vietnamese tennis.

Vietnam’s tennis team kick-started their 30th SEA Games campaign in the Philippines with a goal of quenching their long-standing thirst for a gold medal. Such determination was further enhanced with the timely completetion of the naturalisation procedures for overseas Vietnamese player Daniel Cao Nguyen. Then, it was the former world no. 200 player who joined compatriot Ly Hoang Nam to make the men’s singles title match at the region’s largest sporting event, with the overall triumph belonging to the latter.

Thus, after years of waiting, Vietnamese tennis finally realised their title dream at the SEA Games. With the current generation of talented players, there is excitement and a strong belief that Vietnamese tennis will climb new ladders of success in both the continental and world arenas in the near future.

5. Four Vietnamese athletes book places in Tokyo 2020

Vietnam's swimming star Nguyen Huy Hoang.

2019 could be seen as an extremely successful year for swimmer Nguyen Huy Hoang, as he became the first Vietnamese athlete to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. The 20-year-old boy finished 15th in the men’s 800m freestyle event at the 18th FINA World Championships in Gwangju, Republic of Korea, with a time of 07:52.74, surpassing the Olympic Qualifying Time (OQT) of 7:54.31. Moreover, at the recent 30th SEA Games, Hoang continued to display brilliant form to clinch two gold and two silver medals, and impressively break two Games records.

Gymanst Le Thanh Tung secured Vietnam’s second ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after reaching the men’s vault finals at the 49th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. The two remaining direct Tokyo 2020 places claimed by Vietnamese athletes in 2019 went to archers Nguyen Hoang Phi Vu and Do Thi Anh Nguyet, who excelled in the men’s and women’s recurve (one-string) events at the 2019 Asian Archery Championships in Thailand.

6. GM Le Quang Liem claims first Asian standard chess title

GM Le Quang Liem brings home the first Asian men's standard chess title for Vietnam.

Vietnamese grandmaster Le Quang Liem grabbed his inaugural Asian standard chess crown after an amazing unbeaten run of five wins and four draws at the 2019 Asian Continental Championships in Xingtai, China.

In the decisive game, Liem forced direct title contender Sethuraman S.P of India to resign after only 38 moves, thus taking the top honour and dethroning the long-term reign of chess powerhouses China and Indina. Liem is the first Vietnamese chess player ever to be crowned the Asian men’s individual champion.

7. A record season for Hanoi FC

Nguyen Quang Hai (C) and his Hanoi FC teammates perform impressively on the continental playground in 2019.

Hanoi FC established an unprecedented record for a Vietnamese club in a season. Specifically, Chu Dinh Nghiem’s troops played a total of 47 matches in 2019, surpassing the previous milestone of 41 matches from Becamex Binh Duong 10 years ago.

The capital team affirmed their no. 1 position domesticly by pocketing the double, the V.League and the National Cup. Rising out of the S-shaped territory, Hanoi FC demonstrated an enticing attacking playstyle, winning nine of their 15 matches at the 2019 AFC Cup and advancing into the inter-zone final, where they unexpectedly lost 2-2 on aggregate to 4.25 SC from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Unfortunately, despite being crowned V.League champions, Quang Hai and teammates are not eligible for the AFC-organised competitions in 2020, because they did not attend the sufficient national-level youth tournaments (at least four) in the past year.

8. Wave of Vietnamese players moving to play abroad

Vietnam defender Doan Van Hau is playing for Dutch team SC Heerenveen.

Over the past two years, Vietnamese football has reaped sweet fruits at different levels of teams, which is attributed to not only the brilliant prowess of Korean coach Park Hang-seo but also the golden generation of young football talents. These players have attracted increasing attention from foreign clubs, as well as receiving recruitment offers for expertise purposes, but not for advertising and commercial purposes as previously.

Shortly after goalkeeper Dang Van Lam and midfielder Luong Xuan Truong moved to play for Muangthong United and Buriram United in the Thai League, respectively, two other talents of Vietnamese football, forward Nguyen Cong Phuong and defender Doan Van Hau, arrived in Europe to play under the jersys of Sint-Truidense (Belgium) and SC Heerenveen (Netherlands).

However, it is must be noted that besides Van Lam, who has secured a solid position in Muangthong United’s squad, the remaining three have yet to prove their ability, or yet to impress their managers enough to be granted opportunities. Van Hau’s future at SC Heerenveen is still left open, while Cong Phuong has been forced to repatriate to play for V.League team Ho Chi Minh City FC from next season. This is also an unfortunate “low tone” of Vietnamese football in the past year.