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Vietnam hotshot battles for fitness ahead of AFF Suzuki Cup

Striker Le Cong Vinh, whose goal handed Vietnam the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time two years ago, is facing a race against time to be fit for this year's tournament.

He is recovering after undergoing an operation in Portugal on torn ligaments in his knee.

Reports indicate that it could take anywhere between three and five months for the striker to regain full fitness putting his participation in the AFF Suzuki Cup in jeopardy.

Several doctors have cast doubt on his chances of making the tournament, which kicks off on December 1 while others have told the Vietnamese media that he could be in the squad.

Le Cong Vinh was feted by the football-mad nation after scoring the late equaliser against Thailand in the second leg of the final in Hanoi two years that saw Vietnam win 3-2 on aggregate.

After the tournament, he became the first Vietnamese player to compete in a top European league when he was loaned to Portuguese side Leixoes SC for four months.

While Le Cong Vinh is a big doubt, fellow celebrity striker Bambang Pamungkas is relishing the prospect of another AFF Suzuki Cup campaign.

Bambang, the pin-up boy of Indonesian football with over 30 international goals to his credit, has been named by new Indonesia coach Alfred Riedl in a preliminary squad of 22 players for the AFF Suzuki Cup which the country will co-host with Vietnam.

The talismanic striker first came to prominence in the tournament eight years ago when he topped the scoring charts with eight goals.

However, Indonesia failed to lift the trophy going down to Thailand on penalties in the final.

Bambang believes Indonesia have the players to make a strong challenge for their first title this year.

"We have many young talents here," he said in a recent interview. "Now we need to find the formula to bring the young players through to senior level so that in the next five or ten years they will become stars for the country. For me, our young players are excellent."