Quang Hai: Vietnam must maintain resolve against Asian giants

  • Vietnam entertain Japan seeking a World Cup lifeline

  • Attacker Nguyen Quang Hai is hopeful of securing the team’s first points

  • Midfield lynchpin, 24, is widely regarded as one of his generation's best

With four losses in as many matches, ten goals conceded and just four scored, Vietnam languish at the foot of Group B in Asia's third round of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™. Having made history by powering through the previous round to reach the decisive stage for the first time, Park Hangseo's Golden Star Warriors’s hopes of making further progress are fast diminishing. Their poor start has left the Vietnamese all too aware that they face a must-win scenario against Japan at home on Thursday.

By any standards, it looks a formidable task for a team that has lost all three of their previous meetings against the Samurai Blue across all competitions. But the hosts can at least take heart from their brave showings in their last meeting during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals when they restricted their heavyweight rivals to a 1-0 win, as midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai told FIFA.com. "Japan team are very strong opponents," said the 24-year-old Ha Noi playmaker, who impressed in helping Vietnam to the last eight in the last Asian Cup. "But we play at home and hopefully there will be many spectators there to cheer and support us. "[The fans' support] will be big motivation for us. We will play against first Japan and then Saudi Arabia and we will be trying to get our first points. I hope that we can achieve our targets to meet the fans' expectations."

Factfile

Name: Nguyen Quang Hai Birth date: 12 April, 1997 Club: Ha Noi Honours: V League: 2016, 2018, 2019 AFC U-23 Championship: Runners-up (2018) Vietnamese Golden Ball 2018 AFF Men's Player of the Year 2019 2019 AFC Asian Cup Best XI

Quang Hai Nguyen of Vietnam in the tunnel with a player escort

A key player

One of Vietnam's emerging stars, Quang Hai entered the third round campaign with much expected, having already achieved great things with both club and country. Notably, he figured prominently in the 2016 AFC U-19 Championship to help his side to maiden qualification for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup before propelling Vietnam to the 2018 AFC U-23 Asian Cup final the following year. He has also shown glimpses of his undoubted talent in this Qatar 2022 qualifying campaign, striking twice in the previous stage to help Vietnam progress. And he has remained influential in the third round, such as when he scored the first goal in his team’s opening fixture against Saudi Arabia. "While playing against strong teams such as these opponents, I only thought of completing my mission and focusing on how to do my best to help my team-mates in order to get a good result," Quang Hai remarked. Vietnam came the closest of grabbing a first point against China PR in a five-goal thriller. Quang Hai played a prominent role, smartly laying the ball bacl for Nguyen Tien Linh to draw level on 90 minutes only for the Chinese to grab a stoppage-time winner through Wu Lei. The near miss gave him much food for thought. "We had prepared very well for this match,” he reflected. "We entered the game determined to get a good result even after suffering two opening losses. We started with a high spirit, pressing hard throughout but it ended up with regret for us as we failed to come up with a draw. "After this match, we knew we had much work to do and it is still a long journey ahead. My team-mates and I have set specific targets for this campaign and all of us will gain experiences after each game." Looking ahead, Quang Hai believes that the results will come naturally if Vietnam focus on the basics. "Despite failing to get good results so far, we still need to keep up our spirit and mentality,” he said. “The most important thing for us is to maintain our resolve to live up to the expectations we have."

Vietnam international midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai #19 competes for the ball.