- Nguyen Tien Linh struck twice in World Cup qualifying debut
- Forward figured for Vietnam at FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017
- Helping team in effort to seal maiden qualification to the third round
Twenty two-years-old. Dauntless. Having scored two goals in his FIFA World Cup™ qualifying debut, this was how Vietnam striker Nguyen Tien Linh impressed the media and fans alike in Asia's qualifying for Qatar 2022.
The Becamex Binh Duong forward failed to find the back of the net in Vietnam's goalless draw against Thailand in the opener, but he showed a glimpse of his genius when he was on target in their 3-1 victory in Indonesia.
Then came his finest moment of the qualifying campaign thus far: he scored the lone goal against United Arab Emirates with the victory moving Vietnam to the top of Group G, a group many anticipated to be tricky and too tough to call.
"Each striker is satisfied with scoring goals and contributing for the team's victories and so am I," Nguyen told FIFA.com in a recent interview. "But in my opinion, I should thank my team-mates for the goals I score. I wouldn't get the opportunities without their collective efforts.
"For me, it's a dream come true to represent my country in World Cup qualifying," continued the cool-headed player. "If you are a footballer, it's the greatest honour to join the national team and play in World Cup qualifying. This campaign will be memorable for the rest of my playing career."
In a sense, it was the way that he scored that made it all the more notable. Nguyen ran on to a through pass to deftly slot home against Indonesia and the goal against UAE was truly a strike of wonder. Collecting the ball 30 yards away from goal, he looked and unleashed a thumping drive into the roof of the net.
"To be honest, I am not afraid of anyone I play against," said the audacious youngster. "The only thing I'm afraid of is not giving my all out there. I have prepared myself for this [playing for the national team] all these years, so there is nothing that can prevent me from realising my goals."
Indeed Nguyen is among the hopefuls who have written their names into the country's folklore time and again. They booked maiden qualification for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017 and two years ago, they stunned even their own supporters by finishing as runners-up in the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship.
"I played at the 2017 U-20 World Cup but I missed the U-23 Asian Cup due to an injury. But I have worked harder and then I earned the call-up to the senior team by coach Park Hangseo."
"People usually say that I am strong in competing against our opponents for the ball and think I am good at providing support for my team-mates. So coach Park may think my style of playing suits his tactics for the team. Personally, however, I think I have to improve my finishing ability."
Topping Group G, Vietnam are two points clear of second-place Malaysia, opponents they will face next on 31 March. A victory in Kuala Lumpur will strengthen their grip on the section, and with just two matches remaining against Indonesia and UAE, they will be in a strong position to seal their first-ever place in the decisive third round.
“I have several goals in 2020. I want to win the V.League with my club and I want to defend the AFF Suzuki Cup title with the national team. But above all, of course, I want to continue to play an important role for my team in World Cup qualifying and I am hoping to reach the next round."