Vietnam firm favorites in AFF Cup opener against Laos

By Lam Thoa, Xuan Binh   November 8, 2018 | 02:19 am PT
Vietnam firm favorites in AFF Cup opener against Laos
Vietnamese footballers train with coach Park Hang-seo (R) for the AFF match against Laos in Vientiane. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa
While Vietnam are coming off impressive displays in previous tournaments, Laos is banking big on home advantage.

For Coach Park Hang-seo, today’s game against Laos will be the first match at the helm of the full-fledged Vietnamese men’s football team in an official tournament.

In earlier tournaments, he was managing the national U23 team.

Vietnam will want nothing less than three points from the match, and history is on their side.

Vietnam and Laos have clashed seven times since the first AFF Cup tournament was held in 1996, when it was known as Tiger Cup. The score has been 6-0 in Vietnam’s favor, with one game ending in a draw. Vietnam has scored 24 goals in their last five AFF Cup matches.

With nothing to lose, Laos is also positive as they target a good result against Vietnam this time.

"There’s no doubt that Vietnam has better players than Laos and they are the number one team in Southeast Asia. Proof is you finished second at the U23 Asian Football Championship and fourth at Asian Games this year. But with home advantage, I believe Laos can secure a win or at least a draw," said Viphet Sihachakr, Chairman of the Laos Football Federation (LFF).

Head coach of the Lao national football team, Varadaraju Sundramoorthy, was realistic.

"I think Vietnamese fans shouldn’t be worried. It will be a win for your national football team, because Vietnam has better quality players and they are the number one contender for the trophy" he told VnExpress.

The frontrunner status in the tournament piles on the pressure and expectations from the Vietnamese team.

"We are under pressure because of expectations from the fans. But it’s also a motivation for us. We have a mission to bring the trophy home, it’s quite a challenge but also an honor," centre back Do Duy Manh said.

Coach Park is under even bigger pressure, with reaching the AFF Cup finals a specific target being given to him when he was hired.

"I’m a little bit nervous as I don’t have much experience with Southeast Asian football. This is the first time I am leading a team in the AFF Cup. I’m under pressure but I’m ready to accept this challenge." Park said.

The Vietnam vs. Laos match at National Stadium KM16, Vientiane, will be aired live on VTV6 from 7:30 p.m. Hanoi time. Vietnam will play its second match against Malaysia at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi on November 16.

In an attempt to draw more audiences, the group state of this year's tournament will be hosted by all participating countries, meaning each team will play two games away and two at home. Vietnam will play another match away against Myanmar and meet Cambodia in Hanoi.

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