From playing in the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup to winning the first-ever gold medal in the men’s tournament at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games after decades, Vietnam’s football has undoubtedly been the talk of the town in 2019 but other sports also share the spotlight with their own remarkable achievements.
With 2019 reaching the finish line, Tuoi Tre News takes a look back at some of the year’s most notable sporting moments for Vietnam.
1. Dethroning Thailand for Southeast Asian football’s top spot
The year started with the 2019 Asian Cup organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in the UAE from January 5 to February 1.
Vietnam made headlines in Asia for entering the quarterfinals of the championship for the first time since 2007, being the only Southeast Asian side in the last-eight round.
However, their dream of making a historic semifinal appearance in Asia’s biggest football competition was then shattered by a 0-1 defeat at the hands of giants Japan.
|Vietnamese players celebrate their historic win over Jordan in the round of 16 at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in the UAE, January 20. Photo: Nguyen Khoi / Tuoi Tre|
The Vietnamese squad were among the six best performers in the second round of the 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers, temporarily placing them on top of Group G heading into 2020 against such opponents as the UAE, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Vietnam U22s also won a historic gold medal in men's football – their first in 60 years – at the 2019 SEA Games, which took place in the Philippines from November to December.
Meanwhile, the women’s team successfully defended their SEA Games crown by claiming the sixth gold medal in the category at the same Games.
The team also clinched their third title in the 2019 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Women's Championship in August.
In April this year, the Vietnamese women also advanced to the final round of 2020 Olympics qualification.
The national men’s and women’s football teams finished 2019 in the 94th and 32nd places in the respective FIFA world rankings, making them both leaders in the Southeast Asian region, toppling the old kings Thailand.
|Vietnam's national women's football team and their head coach Mai Duc Chung receive the gold medal after the finale at the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in the Philippines on December 8, 2019. Photo: Nguyen Khoi / Tuoi Tre|
2. Best SEA Games result in 16 years
Vietnam was the overall runner-up at the 2019 SEA Games after host the Philippines with 98 gold, 85 silver, and 105 bronze medals, exceeding the country’s target and marking its best result at the Games since 2003, when Hanoi hosted the event.
Athletics, swimming, and wrestling – which are core Olympic sports – contributed the biggest number of medals to Vietnam’s total.
Notably, the Vietnamese athletics team finished top of their sport.
The 2019 SEA Games also saw Vietnam claim historic medals, with Ly Hoang Nam taking home the nation’s first-ever gold medal in the men’s tennis competition, the men’s basketball team pocketing a bronze medal, and Nguyen Anh Tu and Doan Ba Tuan Anh bagging the first gold medal in the men’s double table tennis event after ten years.
|Ly Hoang Nam (R) receives the nation’s first-ever gold medal in the men’s tennis competition at the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines on December 6. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre|
3. First athletes qualifying for 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Swimmer Nguyen Huy Hoang won Vietnam’s first ticket to Tokyo 2020 as he hit the Olympic standard while competing in the men’s 800m freestyle event at the FINA World Championship in South Korea in July.
The 19-year-old swimmer qualified for the Tokyo Games for the second time after smashing a SEA Games record in men’s 1,500m freestyle in the Philippines.
The second Vietnamese athlete to book a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in Japan was vaulter Le Thanh Tung.
In archery, Nguyen Hoang Phi Vu and Do Thi Anh Nguyet also finished among the top three players in the men’s and women’s recurve contests, respectively, in the 2019 Asian Archery Championships in Thailand to secure two tickets to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, making them the first Vietnamese archers to have ever qualified for the global event.
|Vietnamese swimmer Nguyen Huy Hoang competes in the men’s 1,500m freestyle event at the 30th SEA Games in New Clark City, the Philippines on December 5, 2019. Photo: Hoang Tuan / Tuoi Tre|
4. Landmark moves to Europe
Two Vietnamese footballers moved from their Vietnamese clubs to two European sides in 2019.
The first to be sent to Europe this year was striker Nguyen Cong Phuong, who was loaned by his club Hoang Anh Gia Lai, which compete in the country’s top-tier V-League 1, to Sint-Truiden in Belgium’s top-flight Jupiler Pro League in July.
However, he has been since benched most of his time at Sint-Truiden, and is scheduled to return to Vietnam to play for Ho Chi Minh City FC in the 2020 season as the runners-up in V-League 1 2019 have reached a transfer agreement with the Belgian side.
In September, defender Doan Van Hau was introduced at Dutch league club SC Heerenveen, where Ruud van Nistelrooy once played, after he was transferred from his club Hanoi FC, the defending V-League 1 champions.
However, Hau only played his debut match as a substitute for the first team of SC Heerenveen for a couple minutes on December 17, three months after coming to the Netherlands.
|Vietnam's Doan Van Hau celebrates scoring the third goal in the finale against Indonesia of men's football at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines, December 10, 2019. Photo: Nguyen Khoi / Tuoi Tre|
5. Hanoi FC setting all-time record at AFC Cup
Vietnamese champions Hanoi FC set an all-time record in the AFC Cup despite bowing out of the 2019 season’s competition in the inter-zone play-off final.
The club played a total of 14 matches in this season of the AFC Cup — more than any other team in the history of the competition.
Hanoi FC also claimed the biggest-ever win in the AFC Cup history, condemning Cambodian side Nagaworld FC to a 10-0 defeat in February.
|Vietnam's Hanoi FC players celebrate after scoring a goal during their 2019 AFC Cup match against Cambodia's Nagaworld FC in Hanoi on February 26, 2019. Photo: Nam Khanh / Tuoi Tre|