Midfielder Nguyễn Tuấn Anh (No 11) had an outstanding performance in the match between Việt Nam and Malaysia in the AFF Cup 2020 on Sunday. — Photo courtesy of the VFF
HÀ NỘI — Despite picking up the best player award in Việt Nam’s win over Malaysia on Sunday night, midfielder Nguyễn Tuấn Anh believes there is plenty of room for him to improve.
Việt Nam crushed Malaysia 3-0 in their second match of the AFF Cup at the Bishan Stadium in Singapore, with Anh making his debut in the AFF Cup tournament.
“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the V.League 1 was interrupted, I have not played much,” he said. “I am not satisfied with my performance in the match with Malaysia. There are still regrettable situations. However, I tried my best in my first match at the AFF Cup and will continue to do my best in the next matches.”
Anh played the full 90 minutes and had a role in two of the goals, first placing a pinpoint pass to Nguyễn Quang Hải who opened the scoring on 32 minutes.
In the second half, his pressure paid off and he won the ball in midfield before setting up midfielder Nguyễn Hoàng Đức to score the third.
In addition to the two assists, Anh’s overall play was impressive, completing 67 successful passes with an accuracy rate of 94.4 per cent
This is also the first time in more than two years that Anh played a full 90 minutes for Việt Nam team. The last time was in a 0-0 draw with Thailand in September 2019 in the second qualifying round of the 2022 World Cup.
With his tactical vision, ability to dispute and read the situation well, Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) star helped Việt Nam completely dominate the midfield and helped him win best player of the match chosen by the AFF Cup 2020’s organising committee.
Anh is considered one of the most talented midfielders in Vietnamese football today.
Đoàn Nguyên Đức, HAGL’s manager, spoke highly of him when he first burst onto the scene, claiming he was as good as, if not better than striker Nguyễn Công Phượng and midfielder Lương Xuân Trường. But in the past six years, Anh has suffered more than 13 injuries and many surgeries, causing his career to be interrupted and his contribution to the club and the national team has been limited.
Anh’s knee injuries deprived him of the opportunity to play at two previous AFF Cup tournaments in 2016 and 2018.
Anh was once considered by coach Nguyễn Hữu Thắng as an important factor when building a way of playing for Việt Nam towards the AFF Cup 2016. But before returning home to focus on the team, he suffered a knee injury while training with the Japanese club Yokohama. He was still on the list of 25 players going to Myanmar to compete in the Cup, but he could not train and had to return home before the AFF Cup began.
In 2018, a knee injury in the V.League 1 forced Anh to take a long spell on the sidelines, missing the AFF Cup which Việt Nam won.
A year later, Anh returned to the national team and was immediately used by coach Park Hang-seo in important matches in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. In the opening match of the AFF Cup this year which Việt Nam beat Laos 2-0, Anh was given a rest. Therefore, the match against Malaysia was the first time in his career that he played in the AFF Cup.
According to football expert Phan Anh Tú, every Vietnamese player played well in the match against Malaysia, but he was most impressed with Anh.
“We don’t see an Anh with “crystal” legs anymore, but he has played strongly, fiercely, and effectively with his best physical strength. This can be a big step for him to shine in the AFF Cup this year,” said Tú.
Việt Nam will meet Indonesia in the next match on December 15. A win will surely be enough for Việt Nam to qualify for the semi-finals. — VNS