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Ahead of Pune FC's clash against Hanoi T&T, Goal shares all you need to know about the Vietnamese giants...

 Atanu Mitra
 ANALYSIS | India
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Pune FC will be hosting Vietnam-based outfit Hanoi T&T at the Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune on Wednesday in an AFC Champions play-off. While the Red Lizards will be eyeing a victory in their first ever continental appearance, it will be hard to come by, especially if you take into account the potential Hanoi have in their line-up.

In this piece, we inform about the strengths and past records of Pune's opponents and discuss what they bring to the table.

STRENGTHS

Hanoi FC, a club based in Hanoi is a formidable side in Vietnam and their fairytale emergence to the top tier in three years after starting from the lowest ranks of the Vietnamese club system has taken everybody by surprise.

The Red Giants have stability in most areas with quality all over the pitch. A pretty well oiled midfield with their coach usually opting for a classical 4-4-2 formation, the defending champions of the V.League 1 rely heavily on their wingers when going forward as they aim to use the width of the field. Hardworking and pacey, Thanh Luong on the right flank is capable enough to cause problems to the Pune FC backline.

Left back Nguyen Van Bien can cause all sorts of problems as he trots forward at every given instance and doesn’t have much difficulty in tracking.

Relying mostly on their midfield dominance, they love to score early and then set the pace with their fluid midfield. The team boasts of their brilliant work rate and the consistency on the pitch.

However, the biggest strength of Pune's opponents is the strong financial power they are backed by, as they have been able to rope in a number of senior members of the Vietnam National team in the recent past. The resources available to them have also been properly utilized to secure the best foreign contingent in the league.



STANDARD FORMATION


The Hanoi side usually line up in a classical 4-4-2, with Phan Thanh Hung, the gaffer of the side being an advocate of the conservative formation. However, on the road in this one-legged affair, they may well start with a verison of more cautious 4-2-3-1.

While Van Cong is expected to start between the sticks, Sam Gallagher, the Australian centre-back of the team will pair up with Hong Tien at the heart of the defense. Quoc Long and Van Bien are the probable full-backs for the travellers.

In the midfield, Sy Cuong and Hughton Hector will be acting as fulcrums, dictating the play from the middle of the park. On the right flank, they have one of the most experienced footballers of the national team Thanh Luong who has 48 apperances and 5 goals to his name. On the left wing, Van Quyet, who played his last match in the national jersey last July against Arsenal, will be the frontrunner to earn a place in the starting eleven.

In the striking department, Argentine forward Gonzalo Marronkle will partner Hoang Vu Samson, the top scorer of the last edition of the V-League 1. This link-up between two of the best strikers of the league is telepathic and can pose serious threats for Calum Angus and co.

LEAGUE FORM

The Vietnamese league has started just a few weeks back and Hanoi T&T FC has played three games so far. Though they notched up victories in their first two encounters against Binh Duong and Hoang Anh Gia Lai, they slumped to a 3-1 loss against Vissai Ninh Binh, who have sealed an AFC Cup berth despite finishing 10th in last year's league, courtesy their triumph in the Vietnamese National Cup 2013.

Pune FC versus Hanoi will be a face-off between two clubs with many contrasting features, with the only similarity being the fact that both of them are stuck in the third place of the charts in the domestic leagues. While Pune have played 17 competetive games this season, this will only be the fifth match for their opponents since September last year.

KEY PLAYERS


Gonzalo and Samson in action

Though they rely on the strength of the squad, they do have several match winners in their team. Hughtun Hector, the Trinidad & Tobago international, who has won 27 caps for the national team, joined Hanoi from rivals Song Lam Nghe An F.C.  last year and has played the role of a creative midfielder and has easily settled into the team. Though he is also efficient playing the role of a holding midfielder, it's his tendency to go forward that matters the most.


Upfront, the team boasts of a impressive combination of Gonzalo Marronkle, who finished as the joint top scorer in the league last year with his strike partner, Hoang Vu Samson, scoring 13 goals as well. Gonzalo, hailing from Argentina, had brief stints in clubs like FC Porto B as well but it’s his stay in Hanoi from 2009 that has grabbed the eyeballs of the football fraternity.

Samson on the other hand is of Nigerian descent, but holds Vietnamese passport. Acceleration and pace being his main two weapons, the striker has a tendency to cut in from the wings. The fact that he was signed by Atletico Madrid in 2011 and had a loan stint in Braga afterwards bears testament to his class.



PERFORMANCE IN THE CONTINENT

Having been established in 2006, the club started from the fourth division of the league structure and made their first appearance in the V.League 1 in 2009. In the 4 editions they have played, they have topped the charts on two occasions and have played the continental championships once before in 2011.

Following an excellent outing in 2010, they couldn't impress in the AFC Cup and two defeats in the group stages ensured that they failed to qualify for the knock-out stages even after finishing unbeaten on the home turf.

This time however, they will have a bigger platform to perform on and Pune FC will have to be on their toes to stop the V.League 1 champions from making amends.

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