Vietnam defender Doan Van Hau joins top-tier Dutch club Heerenveen
When Vietnam take on Thailand in their World Cup qualifier tomorrow, it will be more than just a rematch between last year's AFF Suzuki Cup finalists.
The Asian zone, Group G clash at the Thammasat Stadium near Bangkok will also be a showcase of some of the region's stars who are plying their trade in overseas leagues.
The latest to join those ranks is Vietnam defender Doan Van Hau, who passed a medical at top-tier Dutch club SC Heerenveen on Monday night.
The 20-year-old, touted as one of Vietnam's brightest prospects, joined the Dutch side on a one-year loan from Hanoi FC.
Doan was a key part of the Vietnam team that defeated the Thais to win the AFF Suzuki Cup last year.
Coached by South Korean Park Hang Seo, the Golden Dragons also caused a sensation at the Asian Cup in January by reaching the quarter-finals.
Heerenveen technical director Gerry Hamstra was impressed by Doan's ability.
"He can play as both central defender and left-back. Not many players can do that, and he stands up defensively," Hamstra told Dutch website FCUpdate.
He added that Doan's huge following also helped, as the 1.85m defender, who has over 650,000 followers on his Instagram account, could help the Dutch club and their sponsors penetrate the Vietnam market.
Doan is the second player in the current Vietnam team who is playing in Europe.
The other is striker Nguyen Cong Phuong, who joined Belgium's top-tier side St Truidense on loan from Hoang Anh Gia Lai in July.
Nguyen will be coming up against another Belgium-based player - Thai goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan, who plays for second-tier team OH Leuven.
The Thais' three other stars - Chanathip Songkrasin, Theerathon Bunmathon and Thitiphan Puangchan - will also be in action tomorrow after returning from their J-League clubs.
This will be their first competitive match under new coach Akira Nishino, who led Japan to the last 16 of the World Cup last year.
"I am excited that we will play before the home fans. I will do my best and fight with my players," Nishino, 64, was reported as saying by The Nation.
The War Elephants will be out to avenge their 1-0 loss to Vietnam during their last meeting at the King's Cup in June.