Each of Vietnam's goalies is facing different problems ahead of World Cup Asian qualification games.
Coach Park Hang-seo called up four goalkeepers to prepare for the important matches in June: Bui Tuan Truong (Hanoi FC), Nguyen Van Hoang (Song Lam Nghe An), Nguyen Van Toan (Hai Phong) and Pham Van Phong (Saigon FC). Dang Van Lam, who is playing for Japanese club Cerezo Osaka, will also join the team in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
But all five keepers are struggling with separate issues.
Toan, Hoang and Phong have little international experience despite several call ups. Moreover, their form at club level this season has been low. Hoang conceded 15 goals in 12 games while Phong conceded 14. Toan conceded 10 goals after eight games and was put on the bench at Hai Phong FC.
Compared to them, Truong is more experienced, having played for the national team since 2009. However, it would be a risk to put Truong in front of the posts considering his unforgettable mistakes of the past.
At the final of SEA Games 2009 against Malaysia, Truong conceded a goal from a simple long pass of the opponent from midfield, one that any keeper could have easily caught. Truong continued to make a mistake in 2010 AFF Cup semifinals with Malaysia when he didn’t catch the ball cleanly, creating chance for the opponent to score.
The most feasible and trustworthy goalie for Vietnam at the World Cup qualifiers may well be Dang Van Lam, who failed to make the list due to club commitments. As the number one national goalkeeper for the past three years, Lam has not played for six months due to Covid-19 and trouble surrounding his lengthy transfer from Thai club Muangthong United to J1 League club Cerezo Osaka.
At the new club, Lam may have to wait a while before playing his first game. He may only join the national team in UAE after May 30, when J1 League takes a break. On May 31, Vietnam will play a friendly with Jordan in UAE, which Lam will likely miss.
If Park decided to use Lam in the first game of World Cup qualifiers against Indonesia on June 7, it will be his first official match in six months. Sitting out for too long will affect a keeper’s reflexes and ball feeling, which can easily lead to mistakes.
After the game with Indonesia, Vietnam will play Malaysia on June 11 and UAE on June 15. The Golden Dragons will need at least six points from three games to advance to the final round of World Cup qualification for the first time in history.