Experts' View: Becamex Binh Duong vs Hanoi FC
Kuala Lumpur: The 2019 AFC Cup recommences on July 31 with the much-anticipated ASEAN Zonal Final first leg between Vietnamese pair Becamex Binh Duong and Hanoi FC.
The-AFC.com spoke to two regional specialists to preview the tie which will see the V.League sides clash on the Continental stage for the first time.
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Doãn Hữu Bình (below, left) is a Vietnamese football expert and journalist, while Gabriel Tan (@gabetan13) (below, right) is the football editor at FOX Sports Asia.
The ASEAN Zonal Final will see two Vietnamese football clubs face off. It is the first time any side from Vietnam has reached this stage, let alone two. Why do you think this happened, and what does it say about the level of Vietnamese football now?
Bình: First of all, I have to say that this is a suprise for all Vietnam football fans. Ten years ago, Binh Duong reached the semi finals of the AFC Cup, and Hanoi were only just playing their first V.League 1 campaign at that time. Things have changed a lot since then.
While Hanoi FC and Binh Duong are two of the most successful clubs in Vietnam, they have also had to work very hard to get good results this campaign. So many Vietnamese football experts certainly didn't expect an "all Vietnam" ASEAN Zonal final.
Tan: I think there's no denying that Vietnamese football has certainly been on a rise now since the start of 2018, when they reached the final of the AFC U-23 Championship.
In the time since then, Vietnam have gone on to achieve plenty at various levels on the international stage but, importantly, what's happened in the ASEAN Zonal final shows that they've been able to replicate it at club level, which isn't always the case.
What is your opinion on the performance of the two teams in their respective 2019 AFC Cup campaigns so far?
Bình: I think that maybe both sides did not show their full ability in the group matches. For example, Hanoi FC lost at home to Yangon United of Myanmar which was a surprise.
The teams also had to balance their Vietnamese championship commitments with the AFC Cup, but, nonetheless, they both worked really hard to reach the ASEAN Zonal final.
Tan: Hanoi, with their plethora of national team players, I expected to get far - in fact, they were probably one of the pre-tournament favourites. They did have a couple of blips but came good when it really mattered.
Becamex Binh Duong, I feel, got this far because they were greater than the sum of its parts. They don't have as many "big names" as Hanoi but everyone in the team played their part and I believe that's why they've got this far.
How do you see the two legs of the ASEAN Zonal Final playing out?
Bình: These games will be very interesting. Hanoi is in the top two of the V.League 1 now, while Binh Duong are struggling, but they are in the AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal final, so I am sure they will try their best!
Both Hanoi and Binh Duong play attacking football, but they respect each other, so I'd expect the attacking onus to be on the hosts of each respective leg.
Tan: It's a tricky one because, as we've seen in the past, these aren't your usual cagey first-leg affairs, even more so considering both teams are very familiar with one another.
I don't expect it to be all-out attack from both sides but I don't think it will be as tentative as we might expect if it was a true "away" game. Hopefully, I'm right and we can expect two fairly open legs.
Who, in your opinion, are the key players in this match, and why?
Bình: There are many Vietnamese international (or former international ) players on both teams. Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Van Quyet are key domestic players of Hanoi; Anh Duc and Ho Tan Tai are the key domestic players of Binh Duong.
Hanoi's foreign star is the Senegalese attacker Pape Omar Faye, while Binh Duong's would be Brazilian forward Wander Luiz.
Tan: While there's always plenty of hype surrounding Quang Hai, I think the old master Van Quyet's actually been outperforming the young upstart. He, along with Pape Omar Faye, will be key to unlocking what can be a stubborn Binh Duong defence.
For Binh Duong, Le Tan Tai has been having something of a renaissance in my opinion and can really set the tone and provide the supply for their capable attackers.
And finally, which team do you feel has the edge in the tie? What do you predict the score will be?
Bình: I think Hanoi are a little better than Binh Duong, so I feel they will probably edge the tie but by a very narrow margin. The aggregate score might be along the lines of 4-3 or 3-2 in favour of Hanoi FC. It depends on which team will make better use of their scoring chances.
Tan: Purely based on the quality of both sides on paper, Hanoi have to be the favourites for this one. There is however a steely edge to Binh Duong that has really impressed me. I'm predicting a 1-1 draw in the first leg, with Hanoi winning 2-1 at home in the return encounter and being crowned ASEAN Zonal champions 3-2 on aggregate
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