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Ho Chi Minh City’s Tran Phi Son eyeing V.League and AFC Cup success

Ho Chi Minh City: Tran Phi Son has admitted that Ho Chi Minh City FC are targeting the 2020 V.League title and aiming make their mark on the continent as the Vietnamese side look forward to a fruitful second half of the year. 

Having narrowly missed out on their domestic league crown last year, Ho Chi Minh City have looked strong in what has been a disrupted 2020. They sit third in the V.league and were top of their AFC Cup group after three games prior to the competition’s COVID-19-related hiatus.

Indeed, just a point behind table-toppers Song Lam Nghe An, first hosts third on Tuesday in a game that offers Ho Chi Minh City the chance to move top of the standings after six games against a club where Phi Son made more than 100 appearances between 2012 and 2017.

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“Our aim is to fight our hardest in every match in order to achieve our goals; we had a very successful season in 2019, but we want to be even higher in 2020,” insisted the midfielder.

“I’m very happy with how we’ve started the season and we will give everything we have to become champions. We have grown together and improved over time because we live and play as a team, as a family.

“For the next game, Song Lam Nghe An was where I played for a long time so I have many good memories there, but I’m now a Ho Chi Minh City player and will be trying my best to ensure we win the game.”

Defeat in the penultimate game of the 2019 campaign ultimately ended Ho Chi Minh City’s quest for a first league title since 2002 as Hanoi FC finished in pole position of what had been a closely fought two-horse race.

But the southeastern Vietnamese side signalled their intentions ahead of the current campaign by acquiring highly thought of Vietnam international Nguyen Cong Phuong and former Celtic striker Amido Balde.

Both have already shown what they can do in their side’s maiden AFC Cup appearance, with Balde netting three goals in three games and Cong Phuong on the scoresheet twice as Jung Hae-seong’s team have picked up two wins and a draw.

“Amido is a very good striker and is very good in the air, while he’s also physically very strong,” noted 28-year-old Phi Son, who assisted all three of his side's goals in a 3-2 win over Singapore's Hougang United back in February.

“Cong Phuong is very skillful and has the ability to make the difference in any match, so I think both can make big contributions to the team’s success. But together we are a side built by strong bonds and view every game as a chance to boost morale and achieve our goals. 

“There is a difference in the style of play when we come up against teams from different countries, so we need to adapt, but we’re confident and it’s an honour to represent Ho Chi Minh City in the competition."

V.League clubs have shone in the AFC Cup in recent years, with Hanoi and Becamex Binh Duong contesting the ASEAN Zonal final last year.

Hanoi went on to reach the Inter-Zone final before narrowly missing out on a place in the showpiece event following an away goals defeat to DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC, and Phi Son has high hopes his side can enjoy a similar level of success.

“Hanoi are Binh Duong were both very good last year and extremely hard to beat; now it’s up to us to show what we can do in the AFC Cup and prove how strong Vietnamese teams are,” said Phi Son.

“We want to be champions of the V.League and we are also aiming to become ASEAN Zonal champions. We will never be over-confident but we will give everything we have for the club and our fans.”

Photo: Ho Chi Minh City FC

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