HÀ NỘI — Vietnamese Trần Thị Kim Thanh may not have picked up the prize for best goalkeeper AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022 but there’s no dispute she was certainly the busiest.
The championship saw numerous moments that will live long in the memory, with China PR crowned champions for the first time in 16 years and two ASEAN sides, the Philippines and Việt Nam, advancing to the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time.
Among the milestones highlighted by the Asian football governing body was Thanh’s tournament-high 27 saves in six matches, with just one goal conceded in the two playoff matches key to her side’s success.
The AFC also highlighted on their website a clip of Thanh saving a close-range effort by Choe Yu-ri of South Korea when they came face-to-face during their group stage match on January 21.
Myanmar’s New May Zin and Chinese Taipei’s Cheng Ssu-Yu came next on the list with 21 and 19 saves, respectively.
“She is solid at the back. She is focused, has good positioning, footwork, and decision making,” said national team head coach Mai Đức Chung.
Facing powerhouses South Korea and Japan in the group round and China in the quarter-finals, Thanh and her teammates may not have won any of those early games, but her prowess in the nets sure kept the scores down.
Coach Chung revealed that he thought his side would concede up to seven goals each match but Thanh limited it to just three per game.
During the whole tournament, out of 100 shots on the Vietnamese goal, 40 were on target or hit the woodwork in the six matches
“Having Thanh at the back we were assured the net was safe. She is talented with abilities to manage both low and high balls. Long-distance finishes are also no problem with Thanh who is agile and owns sharp reflexes,” said midfielder Nguyễn Thị Tuyết Dung.
Meanwhile, coach Chung said the more Thanh plays the better she becomes, adding the national team is proud of their keeper.
Born in Long An Province in 1993, Thanh has played for national champions HCM City since 2010 and four years later she became a member of the national team.
Thanh became the number one shot-stopper for the national team in 2018 after her senior Đặng Thị Kiều Trinh retired.
“When I was 14, a scout came to school and picked me for the city’s football training centre. I ran 100m and 200m and played volleyball with friends at the time and had no idea of football at all,” Thanh recalled.
“At the centre, I just did whatever the coaches told me, training to improve my fitness and skills like kicking, jumping, and catching the ball.”
Thanh was lucky to be in the same team with Trinh, the best ever keeper of Việt Nam to date, and coached by former national goalie Trần Thị Kim Hồng.
With HCM City, she won the national championship seven times together with one silver and three bronzes.
Meanwhile, with the national team, she won gold medals at the 2017 and 2019 SEA Games, and at the Southeast Asian championship, she secured one bronze in 2018 and one gold in 2019.
Individually, with her amazing performance, Thanh was awarded a Bronze Ball statue for the third-best player of 2020.
Thanh however is not a person to hog the limelight, despite her remarkable achievements.
“Actually, I don’t want to be well-known because the goalkeeper is a sensitive position in the team. If the team win, he/she will be cheered up and honoured but when the team loses he/she would take the blame which makes us lose our confidence and spirit,” said Thanh.
“It’d be better if I was allowed to play in peace so that I will still work hard in this career where mistakes cost a lot.”
Mistakes are inevitable in football. Thanh has been guilty of them herself, including one in the semi-finals of the AFF Cup in 2018 in her first time to be No 1 custodian for the national team.
“Coaches believed in me and gave me a place in the starting team. But I was in the wrong position and conceded a goal. Việt Nam lost 4-2 to Australia and could not enter the final match,” said Thanh.
“I was really scared and thought my chance was over. I was sad and cried a lot. Captain Huỳnh Như consoled and encouraged me, telling me to learn from my mistakes.”
Her performance was much better after that turning point. Thanh still had the coaching board’s belief and she was successful at the AFF Cup and 30th SEA Games in 2019 with golds for Việt Nam.
“Searching to know strong and weak points of my rivals made me more confident with the stable mind during competitions. But I just celebrate the success a little bit, because there be many other tournaments in the years to come,” said Thanh. — VNS