HÀ NỘI — After a challenging semi-final, in which a goalkeeper was subbed on to play in midfield, Việt Nam’s U23s are ready to do it all again in the AFF U23 Championship on Saturday in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Speaking at a pre-match briefing, coach Đinh Thế Nam said his squad have faced difficulties from the beginning of the tournament but overcame them all to reach the final against Thailand.
His players are keen to beat their archrivals for the second time this week.
“Việt Nam beat East Timor after a penalty shootout to meet Thailand (again) in the final. As well as COVID-19, we are facing a physique problem as we had to play more than 120 minutes in the semis, which cost us a lot of energy,” said Nam.
Nam, who led the national U16 team to the Asian championship’s quarterfinals in 2016, praised Thailand’s quality but did not want to talk about technical issues.
“I appreciate Thai players’ skills. We have spent time researching their style but really don’t want to talk much about it. The win in the group round is not enough to measure their power,” said Nam.
In the final game of Group C, Việt Nam beat Thailand 1-0 thanks to Nguyễn Trung Thành, who scored from a free kick. Việt Nam had only 17 players available for the game, including four who had just arrived at the stadium after an eight-hour journey.
“On my side, players are taking a little rest to recover from a hard match. The new-comers have not yet smoothly integrated with the whole team but I talked to them and praised their effort and spirit,” said Nam.
“In our team, the solidarity and admiration for winning are honoured and highlighted. We will be back in action to prepare well for the final.”
For the final, Nam will be without defender Trần Quang Thịnh, who tested positive for the COVID-19 on Friday, but four other players, including skipper Dụng Quang Nho, have returned negative results.
As result, Việt Nam will have 16 players ready to play.
At the same time, the Việt Nam Football Federation managers have asked the organisers to allow Việt Nam to reinforce the team with two more players. Earlier, Việt Nam sent 10 players from home to replace their COVID-19-affected teammates, the maximum number of substitutes as of the tournament’s regulation.
The AFF has not yet responded.
On the Thai side, coach Salvador Garcia said his side are in a better place regarding COVID-19.
However, he confirmed in the briefing that Thailand did not set out to win the title, as this tournament is only one in their activities preparing for the country’s footballing future.
“Winning the final is a dream, not an obsession, for Thailand. We will do our best with the players we have. We hope to win but if not, there is nothing to worry about because life goes on and there are many tournaments ahead.
“My players competing here are younger than all other rivals. This is how we prepare for our future,” said Garcia, who refused to talk about his line-up and said all would be revealed on Saturday.
The Spanish trainer believes that the final game would be very different from the group round one because there are only three Vietnamese players who defeated Thailand some days ago who could play in the coming match.
“This is another U23s of Việt Nam. They are to play with new faces, almost 80 per cent change compared to the previous match. We have analysed them and found a way to play against them. The final will be different,” said Garcia, who hopes to face a strong Vietnamese side with enough players.
The final will kick-off at 7.30pm Hà Nội time. Supporters can watch live on VTV6, or be updated through Việt Nam News’ live blog on our website. — VNS