PHNOM PENH — Việt Nam advanced to the semi-finals of the 2022 AFF Under-23 Championship after a 1-0 win against Thailand at the Prince Stadium in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.
Coach Đinh Thế Nam’s young squad, comprised mostly of players from the Under-21 team, almost had to forfeit Tuesday’s match as 11 out of 23 players in the squad tested positive for COVID-19, including captain Dụng Quang Nho who had a fine display in the 7-0 win against Singapore.
For the team to be eligible to compete, Vietnam Football Federation had to send four last-minute additions to the squad. Đình Quý, Huỳnh Tiến Đạt, Nguyễn Thành Nhân and Trần Bảo Toàn joined the team after a long bus ride from Việt Nam to Cambodia.
Thailand pressed hard in the opening minutes and had their chances, but second-choice goalkeeper Trịnh Xuân Hoàng played safe and denied the Thai strikers.
Việt Nam were patient and sat back, waiting for their opportunities for counter-attacks. The Thai defence could not contain the speed of Trần Bảo Toàn, and the Hoàng Anh Gia Lai player was mesmerising with some of his solo plays.
In the 27th minute, a great run down the right side from Văn Tùng led to a free-kick near Thailand’s right corner. From a tight angle, Nguyễn Trung Thành curled the ball beautifully into the back of the net to open the score for Việt Nam.
“I took inspiration from Quang Hải,” said Trung Thành in the post-match interview.
Thailand then pushed forward for a reply, and had a golden chance in the 41st minute when Teerasak Poeiphimai had only the keeper to beat. The Port FC player blasted the ball over the bar.
The second half started similarly to the first, with Thailand controlling possession and applying the pressure on the tired Vietnamese players, but Việt Nam’s defence stood strong. However, the personnel woes for Coach Nam piled on as key player Phan Bá Quyền was stretchered off in the 65th minute.
In the final ten minutes, Thailand committed forward and had two glorious chances on goal, only to be denied by keeper Xuân Hoàng’s outstanding reflexes.
With this win, Việt Nam Under 23s topped group C with six points from two games. The Young Warriors will face Brunei on Thursday in the semifinals, still ridden with concerns over COVID and injuries.
Trung Thành added after the final whistle: “We have some troubles playing with newly added players, because they had just arrived in Cambodia three hours earlier and it’s hard for them to adapt to the team’s tactics.
“I hope that my teammates who are dealing with COVID can soon return.” — VNS