Vietnam will play at the 2020 AFC U23 Championship as favorites and its forward is one of the players to watch, according to the Asian Football Confederation.
The AFC said in an article posted on its website on Tuesday that “Vietnam will start the campaign as favourites” despite challenges from other rivals in Group D, including Jordan, the UAE, and North Korea.
“There's plenty to suggest talented Jordan, United Arab Emirates and DPR Korea sides can challenge the Southeast Asians in what looks an intriguing group,” the AFC said.
The Golden Dragons will take on the UAE on January 10, Jordan on January 13, and North Korea on January 16 at the tournament, which will take place in Thailand from January 8 to 26.
The confederation remarked that “while the talk around Vietnam often centers on Nguyen Quang Hai, there is an array of young talent currently representing the Golden Stars, with Nguyen Tien Linh another of the U23 side who has already excelled at senior level,” referring to playmaker Hai, who scored an iconic goal in the finale of the 2018 edition in China.
“The Becamex Binh Duong forward appeared at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 before being amongst the goals as his club side reached the AFC Cup knockout rounds,” the AFC added.
“The highlight of his year, though, was a stunning match-winning strike from distance against the United Arab Emirates in the Asian Qualifiers.”
The AFC was mentioning a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying game in Hanoi on November 14, where the Vietnamese hosts defeated heavyweights the UAE 1-0 with a superb long-range shot by Linh in the 44th minute.
Linh scored six goals in men’s football at the 30th Southeast Asian Games hosted by the Philippines from November 30 to December 11.
Vietnam won the gold medal in the category, their first in 60 years.
The other players to watch in Group D include North Korea midfielder Ri Yong-gwon, Jordan goalkeeper Abdallah Al Fakhouri, and UAE forward Ali Saleh.
Vietnam’s head coach Park Hang Seo announced a 25-man squad for the U23 championship on Saturday.
They will move to Thailand on January 1 and play a friendly with Bahrain U23s in Bangkok two days later.
Park will eliminate two more players after the game.
The Vietnamese finished second in the 2018 edition after a snowy final showdown with Uzbekistan, where they lost 1-2 in extra time.