News - August 26, 2018 | 05:40 am PT

‘Miracle Park’ coaches, coaxes Vietnam into a dream run

Park Hang-seo has helped the Vietnamese men’s football team gain both skills and confidence to break new ground.

After the team beat Bahrain on Thursday to enter the Asian Games quarterfinal for the first time, head coach Park Hang-seo went to the stand of the Patriot Candrabhaga stadium of West Java, Indonesia, where about 300 ecstatic Vietnamese fans were cheering the historic win.

He bowed to them and went to the changing room, where the players were waiting for his post match comments.

"We just had a very challenging match, and thanks to your effort, we’re in the quarterfinals of Asian Games, for the first time in history.

"In the next match against Syria, we will try to continue our story. Right now, just relax yourself. We need to recover, physically and mentally. Thank you all so much," he said.

His reactions during the match showed Park’s intense involvement with the team. There were moments he could not bear to look, like when the opponent was awarded a free kick.

He raged at the players during the match.

And he pumped his fists when striker Cong Phuong scored the late winning goal.

Hometown hero

Vietnam’s success has made Park an important sports figure in his native country, South Korea.

South Korean newspaper JoongAng has called him “The Miracle Park,” noting the immediate impact he has had on the team after he took over as Vietnam’s head coach last October, helping the team achieve their best goal ratio in Asian Games history.

“Park’s magic continues. He was wise and perceptive in choosing a substitution that made a difference, with the substitute scoring the winning goal,” wrote another South Korean newspaper Chosun.

About the possibility of encountering South Korea in the semifinals, he’d said: “My hometown is South Korea, but I’m the head coach of Vietnam at the moment and I will always help Vietnam to win against any opponent.”

Back in trainng

After taking a day off, on Saturday afternoon, the team went back to training to prepare for the Syria match.

The team seemed comfortable and happy, with a lot of laughter going around.

Under Park’s watchful eye, the players practiced taking penalties.

The quarterfinal match between Vietnam and Syria will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on August 27 at the Patriot Chandrabhaga stadium.

Story and photos by Lam Thoa, Duc Dong