Friday , July 1 2022

V.League 1 out of sight and out of mind no longer

The Local Games

Nguyễn Quang Hải after his final match for Ha Noi FC in the spring. Photo laodong.vn

Peter Cowan

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I’m not sure that’s the case when it comes to the V.League 1.

Domestic football returns on Sunday as Hà Nội FC make the short trip to Nam Định, more than two months since the season was paused for various international tournaments, but I’m finding it hard to get excited and I’m guessing a lot of fans nationwide feel similarly.

The V.League 1 has been very much out of sight and out of mind but instead of ranting (again) about how poorly the league has been organised, I decided to put my thinking cap on and come up with a few storylines for the season that are worth getting excited for.

Life without Quang Hải

Nguyễn Quang Hải, the V.League’s brightest star, is long gone and I’m fascinated to see how Hà Nội FC cope without him.

The twinkled-toed diminutive playmaker left the capital city side in April and seems poised to finally sign with a European side in the coming days, with Zing reporting that Ligue 2’s Metz are about to snap him up.

Hà Nội have been heavily reliant on Hải’s creativity in recent years, which is understandable seeing as he’s been head and shoulders above every other player in the league for several years now.

So how will they cope without him? Hà Nội certainly still have plenty of top players to call upon and I’m fascinated to see how losing Hải will impact their playing style, as I think their overreliance on him led to some pretty stagnant football in recent years.

What’s going on with HAGL?

Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) likely would have won the 2021 title if the season had been completed.

The men from Pleiku were playing some scintillating football and seemed to finally be living up to all the hype that has surrounded them for years.

However things were far from rosy for Kiatisuk Senamuang’s men in the early part of this season in the spring.

A pair of goalless draws with minnows Nam Định and Hà Tĩnh to start the season didn’t auger well, before they fell to a humbling 2-0 defeat to recent relegation candidates Sông Lam Nghệ An.

Granted, Nghệ An have received sizable investment and revamped their squad, but it was still a jarring result.

While HAGL gave a good account of themselves in the AFC Champions League, they then shipped four goals to Hà Nội in a June friendly.

I’m very interested to see which HAGL team shows up this season. Will it be the swashbuckling entertainers of 2021, or will 2022’s malaise continue?

Does money talk?

Topenland Bình Định have been referred to as the PSG of Việt Nam in Vietnamese language media as they’ve certainly splashed the cash recently.

Their results to start the season were mixed, but I think the extended break in action may end up benefitting them the most.

Whenever a club brings in a raft of new players it always takes time for them to gel into a team and now Bình Định have had that time.

Have they made use of it? Time will tell and I’m excited to find out. VNS

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