Vietnam’s journey to AFF Cup semi-finals: Convincing and pride worthy

Monday, 2018-11-26 16:12:12
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Vietnam are the only side yet to concede a goal at AFF Suzuki Cup 2018.
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NDO – With three straight wins and one draw, Vietnam have booked their place in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals in a convincing and pride worthy fashion, winning the Group A campaign and being the only side yet to concede a goal so far in this year’s championship.

* Vietnam beat Laos 3-0 in AFF Suzuki Cup opener

* Cong Phuong scores as Vietnam thrash Malaysia 2-0

* AFF Cup: Vietnam held to goalless draw by Myanmar

* Vietnam thrash Cambodia 3-0 to advance as Group A leaders

The group stage journey had initially been predicted to be full of difficulties for the “Yellow Stars”, however, it was then persuasively addressed by coach Park Hang-seo and his players thanks to their talent and elevated composure.

Specifically, Vietnam produced a fabulous start in the chase for their second AFF Cup title by easing past minnows Laos 3-0, with goals from the three attacking spearheads, Nguyen Cong Phuong, Nguyen Anh Duc and Nguyen Quang Hai, although the home side proactively chose a strategy of stubborn defence right in front of the penalty box.

Coach Park Hang-seo has blown a new breeze into Vietnamese football after just over a year in charge.

Returning to My Dinh National Stadium in the next round for a crunch encounter against tough opponents, Malaysia, Vietnam surprisingly cruised to a convincing triumph thanks to Park’s wise tactics. The Republic of Korea coach let the guests dominate ball possession, but helped Vietnam to control the game through a pragmatic style of solid defence and fast counterattacks. In that important match, Cong Phuong and Anh Duc punished two rare mistakes by Malaysia’s defensive line to secure a 2-0 win for the “Yellow Stars”.

Difficulties only arrived in the third group match day as Park’s side faced the fierce playing style of Myanmar. The wasting of multiple opportunities during the 90 minutes of play forced Vietnam to settle for a goalless draw.

Forward Tien Linh plays a brilliant game against Cambodia and promises to be a quality choice for Park in Vietnam's attacking line.

However, two victories and one draw were enough for Cong Phuong and his teammates to make capital as they hosted Cambodia at Hang Day stadium in the last group match day. Despite their concerted efforts, the Angkor Warriors could only resist until the 39th minute before Nguyen Tien Linh, Nguyen Quang Hai and Phan Van Duc sealed a three-star triumph for Vietnam.

With three wins, one draw and a scoring tally of eight goals, Vietnam have qualified for the 2018 AFF Cup semi-finals as the Group A winners and will have the advantage of playing the semi-final second leg at home.

Impenetrable backline – Vietnam’s strongest asset

Vietnam’s progress into the knock-out stage had been predicted ahead of the tournament, however, what impressed the most was the way in which they realised it, with Park’s side remaining the only team to keep a clean sheet in every game as the group stage concluded.

For the rest of the group stage, Vietnam produced a defensive master class with Van Lam a standout guard. But what’s more worthy of mentioning is the confident backline that was able to effectively deal with many attacking plays from their rivals.

Goalkeeper Dang Van Lam (pictured) has stood out in Vietnam's resilient defensive line, alongside Que Ngoc Hai, Tran Dinh Trong and Do Duy Manh.

For the rest of the group stage, Vietnam produced a defensive master class with Van Lam a standout guard. But what’s more worthy of mentioning is the confident backline that was able to effectively deal with many attacking plays from their rivals.

The backline has been a solid rock for the rest of the “Yellow Stars” as it is able to not only do the necessary defensive blocks but also facilitate and be the catalyst for the squad’s attacking moves.

Trio Que Ngoc Hai, Tran Dinh Trong and Do Duy Manh have put up a really reliable fortress for head coach Park Hang-seo and for the four games running at a total of at least 360 minutes, the “Yellow Stars” are still immaculate in terms of keeping clean-sheets.

Next up for Vietnam will be a semi-final clash against the Philippines, who have also demonstrated a positive face under the dynasty of internationally renowned coach, Sven-Göran Eriksson. Despite failing to keep a clean sheet in every game as Vietnam did, the Group B runners-up also impressed strongly by coursing through the group stage with a four-game unbeaten run – two wins and two draws. With only four games from wining a second AFF Suzuki Cup crown, there are strong hopes that coach Park Hang-seo will continue his magic with wise strategic choices to lead the “Yellow Stars” past the Philippines to book a ticket in the final and make the ten-year title dream come true.