The second zonal semi-final of the 2022 AFC Cup sees Vietnam’s Viettel FC host Malaysia’ Kuala Lumpur City FC at Thong Nhat Stadium, Ho Chi Minh City on August 10 (Wednesday).
Whoever wins will find a place in the ASEAN Zone final where awaiting them will be the winner of the first semi-final between PSM Makassar v Kedah Darul Aman.
Viettel FC were granted a place in the 2022 AFC Cup — the first time they managed to do so — thanks to their second-place finish in the 2021 V.League 1. They were paired with Singapore’s Hougang United, Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Crown and Laos’ Young Elephants in Group I and they dominated their competition.
The Red Tornado, as they are affectionately known as, proved hostile hosts, and made their intentions known in the very first game, thrashing Young Elephants 5-1, with their Brazilian import Pedro Paulo scoring a hat-trick. This was after Young Elephants took a shock early lead. That setback triggered as emphatic a response as anyone could have imagined.
They were arguably just as dominant in their next game against Phnom Penh Crown but ended up winning it only 1-0 due to profligacy in front of goal. Bui Duy Thuong was the sole name on the scoresheet in that game.
They found their scoring shoes again in the final match of the group as they pounded Hougang United in a fashion not dissimilar to how they had treated Young Elephants in Game 1.
After falling behind 1-0 early in the game, Viettel came alive in what proved to be a fiery encounter and a penalty fest. In an incredible turn of events, the referee awarded three penalties in a span of five minutes — two to Viettel and one to Hougang. All were converted meaning that the teams went into the half-time break level on goals. However, after the break the group hosts came out a different team and scored three unanswered goals, including two in three minutes by another Brazilian on their books: Geovane Magno.
The win boosted their tally to nine points after three games and earned them a place in the semis.
Kuala Lumpur City
Kuala Lumpur City qualified for the 2022 AFC Cup, thanks to their triumph in the Malaysia Cup last year. As mentioned above, their opening match with PSM had ended in a stalemate, although KL City faithful would have thought that they should have won as their side had more chances to score and were also playing on their own turf.
That drawn match made KL City’s next game – against Tampines Rovers – a must-win affair. They were slightly slow off the blocks but then quickly found their feet. Within the first 21 minutes they were up 2-0, thanks to their own Brazilian import: Paulo Josue.
The skipper scored both of his side’s goals in a span of five minutes and although Tampines had a few chances and even halved the deficit through Boris Kopitovic, KL always maintained their grip on the match. In the end, they won 2-1 and advanced to the semis as the best placed runners-up in the competition.
Viettel FC have three Brazilians on their books and all of them are massive goal threats. If VTFC are to advance, it is very likely that one or more of Magno, Paulo and Caique end up playing pivotal roles. They have been a bit quiet in Vietnam’s domestic league, especially Paulo. That said, their performances in the AFC Cup have been on a different level.
For Kuala Lumpur, their main man and biggest hope of course is their talisman, Josue. He scored both the goals in the crucial win over Tampines Rovers and is also the club’s highest scorer in the domestic league. If the Malay side is to progress to the final, their captain’s performance will have to be right up there. Some can also expect Romel Morales and Zhafri Yahya to step up, owing to their trio of goals in the Malaysian Super League.
Viettel FC v Kuala Lumpur City FC Prediction
The explanations above make the equation crystal clear. Viettel FC have had a far better group stage campaign, and even though both these sides are sort of struggling in their own domestic leagues, the Vietnamese club still has a bit of an edge. They also have more Brazilians on their books, and as we know their mere presence on the pitch can sometimes guarantee goals. Therefore, we back Viettel FC to utilise their greater talent and home advantage into a victory, albeit a slim one.