TASHKENT — After the unfortunate draw against archrivals Thailand on Thursday, an all-new Việt Nam must get ready to meet defending champions South Korea at the Asian U23 Football Championship on Sunday in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
The reign of Gong Oh-kyun started with a surprising display of attacking football and modern gegenpressing tactics. The Golden Star Warriors were never on the back foot in their match against Thailand.
Both goals by Phan Tuấn Tài and Nguyễn Văn Tùng originated from great pressing and open play, rather than solo dribbles and set pieces like the senior Việt Nam side.
However, Gong’s youngsters lacked the composure and stamina needed for a modern pressing game. Most notably in the second half, many players went down with injuries and all five substitutions were used up before the 65th minute.
And it was these pivotal points that led to Suphanat Mueanta sneaking his way past Việt Nam’s defence to score the late equaliser for the Thais when the game seemed to be in Việt Nam’s bag.
Despite the disappointing draw, coach Gong still sang praises of his players.
“My players played like warriors. They tried their hardest and that is for me the most important thing,” said Gong.
“Some players have health problems pre-match, but the replacements still did their job well.
“These are new and young players. They are eager to prove themselves, even the ones who are injured early. I am grateful for their efforts,” said the South Korean.
Việt Nam’s injury list now includes No 1 keeper Nguyễn Văn Toản, Trần Danh Trung, Nguyễn Văn Trường, and Lê Minh Bình on top of Nguyễn Thanh Bình and Lý Công Hoàng Anh who had food poisoning before Thursday’s match.
South Korea on the other hand have shown class and proved why they are the defending champions. Hwang Sun-hong, a former player under Park Hang-seo during his time with the South Korea national team, is currently the manager of the team.
Hwang’s squad includes Lee Kang-in, the 2019 FIFA U20 World Cup Golden Ball winner, as well as Hong Hyun-seok and Jeong Sang-bin, who play top-flight football in Europe.
But it is not the individuals of the young Taeguk Warriors that are worrisome, but rather their clinical style of play.
In their match against Malaysia on Thursday, coach Hwang’s men exploited Harimau Malaya’s mistakes in defence and punished them heavily, most notably in the last two minutes of the game when Malaysia’s stamina deteriorated, and they ended the game with an emphatic 4-1 win.
Gong, however, is still positive about Việt Nam’s chances to progress further.
“We have two more matches and my team is fully prepared. The newly injured players might not start, but Hoàng Anh and Thanh Bình will return.
“I only focus on how my team will play, and because of that, I don’t find the need to adapt to the opponent’s play.
“Although I am a South Korean, my job is with Việt Nam and I am fully committed,” said Gong. — VNS