Champions Vietnam to face challenges at AFF U23 Championship

By Hoang Nguyen   August 18, 2023 | 05:59 pm PT
Champions Vietnam to face challenges at AFF U23 Championship
Vietnam U23 players lift the AFF U23 Championship title after winning 1-0 against Thailand in the final on February 26, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Quoc Anh
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said the particularly young squad of defending champions Vietnam will not have it easy at the 2023 AFF U23 Championship.

In this tournament, Vietnam are in group C with Philippines and Laos.

"Group C pits reigning champions Vietnam with Philippines and Laos, but Vietnam Football Federation’s (VFF) decision to send a squad consisting of mostly U20 players could make it an open group," AFC wrote. "Head coach Hoang Anh Tuan will lead a side he's familiar with, having previously managed the players at the U17 and U20 levels."

Despite bringing a squad with only three players over 22 years old, while the rest are under 20, head coach Tuan confirmed that Vietnam's goal is to make it to the final.

"We want the young players to face challenges and accumulate experience," Tuan said at a press conference on Thursday. "However, as defending champions, our target is to at least reach the finals."

The 2023 AFF U23 Championship, hosted in Rayong, Thailand, kicked off on Thursday and the final game will take place on August 26.

10 teams are divided into three groups with group winners and the best runners-up of the three groups advancing to the semifinals.

Vietnam won the tournament for the first time last year after beating Thailand 1-0 in the final.

AFC also gave its take on the remaining two groups.

"In group A, Thailand are placed with Cambodia, Brunei Darussalam and Myanmar, whose head coach Issara Sritaro putting his faith in a new squad with only three players remaining from the side that competed in SEA Games 32. In Group B, Indonesia and Malaysia will renew their old rivalry for a semifinal berth, with Timor Leste aiming to upset the odds."

The 2023 AFF U23 Championship is also considered a preparation tournament for the 2024 U23 Asian Cup qualifiers in September.

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