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AFF Suzuki Cup Icon: Le Cong Vinh and Vietnam’s unlikely cup triumph in 2008

When speaking about Vietnam’s lone AFF Suzuki Cup triumph in 2008, the name Le Cong Vinh isn’t too far behind from being mentioned as well.

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And while the Golden Dragons may only have one AFF Suzuki Cup to their name, it would be dismissively ignorant not to consider them as heavyweights in the competition especially when they’ve made at least the semi-finals in all except two editions of the competition.

However, their crowning glory is still 2008 and that’s where the 32-year-old player cemented his legacy in Vietnam football and the AFF Championship as a whole.

During his time in the competition, Le Cong Vinh amassed a total of 15 goals which places him second best behind Singapore’s Noh Alam Shah and tied with Thailand’s Teerasil Dangda and Worrawoot Srimaka.

Dangerous when in possession, Le Cong Vinh spent 12 years playing club football, playing in teams like Song Lam Nghe An and Ha Noi T&T. By the time he hang up his boots, Le Cong Vinh had played 206 games in club football and scored 120 goals.

For Vietnam, he was active from 2004 to 2016 and has amassed 83 international caps while scoring 51 goals which puts him atop the rankings for the country in both statistics.

EMERGENCE OF AN AFF SUZUKI CUP SUPERSTAR

Courtesy of The Thaovanhoa

Le Cong Vinh appeared in an incredible six AFF Suzuki Cups, starting in 2004 when they were co-hosts of the competition. The Golden Dragons failed to make it out of the group stages but Le Cong Vinh had four goals to his name.

In the 2007 competition, Le Cong Vinh was part of the team and did much better this time around. They reached the semi-finals before they were beaten by Thailand. Le Cong Vinh scored three goals in the competition – which all came in the group stage game against Laos where they beat their opponents 9-0 and the striker scored in the very first minute of the game.

As for the 2008 competition, Vietnam were grouped again with a tough squad, going up against Thailand, Laos and Malaysia. The Golden Dragons finished second and beat Singapore in the semi-finals.

That set them up for a final against the team that eliminated them a year before, Thailand. It set them up for a tense final where the Vietnamese squad got the first leg victory. Le Cong Vinh scored in the 2-1 victory as they went home for the second leg of the game.

However, Thailand got the early advantage with a first-half goal, and the Golden Dragons were having trouble pushing ahead in front of their home crowd.

In extra time, Le Cong Vinh etched his name in history with an incredible injury-time header that levelled the score in the 94th minute, eventually ending the game at a 1-1 tie with Vietnam winning the title thanks to a 3-2 aggregate victory.

It was an incredible way to end the competition and despite only scoring two goals in the competition, none was as big as his strike in the dying moments of the final.