The two young stars of Vietnamese football have been listed among the highly promising contenders for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award at the upcoming ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship - Suzuki Cup 2018.
This year, Thailand's midfield maestro Chanathip Songkrasin, the only player in the tournament's 11-year history to win the award twice in a row, in 2014 and 2016, cannot join the Thai squad at the biennial event. Therefore, the most prestigious personal prize in this year's campaign will certainly change owners.
The AFF Cup's home page has run an article listing six potential names who are expected to shine in the region's biggest competition, which will kick start in the next few days. Notably, Vietnam is the only team with two representatives on this list, namely home favourite Quang Hai and Cong Phuong.
It is no accident that only 16 months after making his international debut, Quang Hai has already been regarded as one of the leading contenders for the MVP award. Writing about the Hanoi club midfielder, the AFF website commented: "It seems remarkable, at what will be his maiden AFF Suzuki Cup competition, that Nguyen Quang Hai is already regarded as one of the leading contenders for the MVP award.
Just 20 years old but already a dazzling talent with reported interest from a host of clubs in Asia and beyond, this could well be the stage where the attacking midfielder really confirms his rapidly growing international pedigree."
Regarding Cong Phuong, the author of the article said that as a key element of the young generation of Vietnamese talented footballers, "the versatile midfielder/forward Nguyen Cong Phuong will be tasked with creating much of the attacking output for one of the tournament favourites."
"Having featured in four of Vietnam's five matches in the 2016 edition the 23-year-old already has AFF Suzuki Cup experience and is primed to drive Vietnam towards what would be their second regional title," read the article regarding the Hoang Anh Gia Lai player.
In addition to two Vietnamese promising stars, there are also four other names mentioned in the list, including Stefano Lilipaly (Indonesia), Thitipan Puangchan (Thailand), Manuel Ott (the Philippines) and Safawi Rasid (Malaysia). Lilipaly is a particularly familiar name with Vietnamese fans. The Dutch-born midfielder scored Indonesia's first goal in the second leg of the AFF Cup 2016 semi-final at My Dinh Stadium.
Along with Quang Hai, Malaysia's Safawi is regarded as one of the brightest young stars in Southeast Asian football. The creative player is quite versatile, capable of playing as a winger and striker with clinical finishes. The Vietnam will surely have to keep an eye on the 21-year-old when the two teams meet in the second round of Group A at My Dinh Stadium, November 16.
In the history of the AFF Suzuki Cup, Vietnam has had two players honoured with the AFF MVP award; midfielder Nguyen Hong Son in 1998, when the team finished runners-up, and goalkeeper Duong Hong Son in 2008, the year Vietnam won the championship title for the first time. Hopefully the "10-year circle" will repeat again.
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