ASEAN Zonal Final: Ones to Watch
Kuala Lumpur: There are just a few days to go to the ASEAN Zonal Final with Becamex Binh Duong and Hanoi FC set to lock horns in an all-Vietnam clash.
The two-legged final will kick off on July 31 at Binh Duong Stadium with the return meeting at Hanoi's Hang Day Stadium the following week. The victors will progress to the Inter-Zone semi-finals and a meeting with the Central Zone champions, Altyn Asyr of Turkmenistan.
We look at six players – three from each of the finalists – who could prove to be the difference-makers.
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Nguyen Van Quyet
Forward, Hanoi FC
Only recently turned 28 years old, it seems strange to think of Van Quyet as a veteran. But having first appeared in the AFC Cup at the 2011 edition, there's no denying the Hanoi FC number 10 has an old head on young shoulders.
With over 190 appearances and 100 goals for the club he has spent the last eight seasons with, Van Quyet has enjoyed another solid Continental campaign.
Ganiyu Oseni, who has since left the club, may have netted the lion's share of the goals in the Group Stage but Van Quyet scored arguably the most vital with the second in the 2-1 win over Ceres Negros in the Semi-final second leg.
Forward, Becamex Binh Duong
Becamex Binh Duong's leading scorer in the Continental competition so far, Brazilian striker Wander Luiz has been a big part of the side's success in this year's AFC Cup.
Five goals are the statistic most will highlight, but his all-round game is reflected in his duels won (43) and tackles won (6) statistics, both among the leading numbers for a forward in the AFC Cup.
With fellow foreign attacker Victor Mansaray having left the club, the onus on Wander Luiz to lead the line from the front will be even greater.
But the 27-year-old has proven he can deliver when it matters most: witness his dramatic winner against Ceres Negros (above) that secured Binh Duong's place in the Knockout Stage.
Nguyen Quang Hai
Midfielder, Hanoi FC
There's no question that on the basis of 2018, Quang Hai was the brightest star of the Vietnam national team. The darling of the U-23 side that reached the final in China PR, the midfielder also shone as Vietnam lifted the AFF Cup at the end of the year.
The 2019 season began with another impressive performance at January's AFC Asian Cup in the UAE and Quang Hai has continued to show his ability for Hanoi FC in their AFC Cup campaign so far.
Of players remaining in the competition, only Al Jazeera's Feras Shelbaieh can match Quang Hai's tally of four assists with his 12 chances created also the highest among Hanoi FC players.
Despite those statistics, he has yet to truly catch fire in the AFC Cup, but his prodigious talent suggests that his moment is coming.
To Van Vu
Midfielder, Becamex Binh Duong
When it comes to an all-action midfielder, To Van Vu is the one name that immediately comes to mind when comparing the two sides. Goals scored, chances created, crosses delivered, key passes made, the 25-year-old has it all.
Be they defensive or attacking statistics, Van Vu ticks all the boxes and has been a near ever-present in the side's 2019 AFC Cup campaign, chalking up more Continental minutes than anyone in the current squad.
⚽ Another round of fixtures, another #AFCCup2019 Allianz Goal of the Week for you to decide on!— AFC Cup (@AFCCup) May 2, 2019
Vote now! 👉 https://t.co/wyE7d9XoNN
🔥 Jordan Mintah
🎯 To Van Vu
🚀 Mirlan Murzaev pic.twitter.com/vcI3mqThhZ
His standout numbers are perhaps even more impressive when one considers this is only Van Vu's debut campaign at the AFC Cup, but can his maiden tournament get even better with the clash against his countrymen?
Doan Van Hau
Defender, Hanoi FC
Another star of the Vietnam national team, 20-year-old left-back Van Hau excelled in last year's AFC U-23 Championship and AFF Championship, while he also stood out in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
At this year's AFC Cup he has been a regular starter clocking up the highest minutes played by any outfielder (630) and most duels won (39) in the Hanoi FC side.
Usually his forte, Van Hau's crossing numbers and chances created are lower than several of his other teammates, though, so should "Doan Van Bale" wish to live up to the nickname given him by European press, there remains room for improvement.
Ho Tan Tai
Defender, Becamex Binh Duong
With Nguyen Quang Hai and Doan Van Hau set to attack down Binh Duong's right flank, defending full-back Tan Tai could have the most important role in the ASEAN Zonal Final.
Fortunately for the first leg's hosts, the 21-year-old's performances so far in the 2019 AFC Cup can fill the team and supporters alike with confidence.
More tackles won (8), more clearances made (13) than any of his teammates, Tan Tai has also been one of the most relied upon defenders with his 537 minutes played among the most in the Binh Duong backline.
He will need to maintain his consistency once more with a series of testing ties to come.
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