Vietnam's opening SEA Games performance 'scared' all other teams

By Steve Darby   May 7, 2022 | 08:38 am PT
Vietnam's opening SEA Games performance 'scared' all other teams
Vietnam (R) play Indonesia at SEA Games 31 in Viet Tri Stadium in Phu Tho Province, May 6, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
All that matters in professional football is the final result and Vietnam achieved what they wanted versus Indonesia. A first game win.

But what this performance will have done is scared all the other teams. Vietnam dominated and showed they are well organized, aggressive and in the selection of their over age players a very strong team. Thailand will be watching and worrying!

Many people felt this game would decide who came top of group A and this would mean avoiding Thailand in the semifinals. Indonesia logically should be a strong team, a nation of 200 million people who are passionate about football, but usually they are let down by their administration and organization. This SEA Games, Indonesia looked strong, an experienced Korean coach, a long preparation period with games against K League teams and the support of the federation in releasing players. Also they start to use naturalized players such as the Dutch player Klock.

Personally, I don't think that the group is as simple as many predict. I think the Philippines could shock a few teams. They won easily over a very poor Timor Leste team, but they looked physically strong. (Vietnam will play the Philippines next at 7 a.m. Sunday).

But Vietnam will have caused great psychological damage to Indonesia, they never looked like scoring except from the odd breakaway and set pieces and despite all their physical preparation in Korea, Vietnam finished the game a lot stronger.

Former Thailand national coach Steve Darby. Photo by the Asian Football Confederation

Former Thailand national coach Steve Darby. Photo by the Asian Football Confederation

Vietnam started the game well and could have been 2-0 up at half time, but going in to half time coach Park Hang-seo would have been happy with the performance rather than the score of 0-0.

The continuous pressure from Vietnam paid off and when number 17 Nham Manh came on for number 11 Van Tung Vietnam started the second half superbly, putting immediate pressure on Indonesia and the Indonesian goalkeeper looked very nervous making unorthodox saves, not catching the ball cleanly and pushing the ball back into dangerous areas. The Vietnam forwards must follow in every shot on this goalkeeper to get a rebound. The pressure must pay off for Vietnam.

The pressure did pay off in the 54th minute after great work by Van Do, the substitute Nham Manh made an intelligent run and crossed for Tien Linh to do what he so often does, score from close range. A well deserved lead. The key was the timing of the run by Nham Manh which created the opportunity. Once that first goal went in, you could see the Vietnamese relax and the Indonesians start to panic. What of course also helped was the fantastic crowd from Phu Tho Province. I believe it was tremendous idea to take the game to the provinces and the local people responded superbly.

Vietnam deservedly scored a second after an excellent "one-two" between Tien Linh and Hung Dung. It was not an easy chance as Hung Dung was under great pressure from a defender and the goalkeeper was closing down his space. But he showed great intelligence and superb technique to lift the ball over the goalkeeper with the outside of his right foot. This is a very difficult technique and in reality an excellent goal.

Indonesia were now starting to mentally struggle and began to foul. It was essential that the Vietnamese kept their discipline and they certainly did. The old Vietnam would have had players reacting to fouls. This new Vietnam are far more professional and don't give away needless free kicks or get silly, unneeded yellow cards.

The third goal was a mixture of brilliance by one wing back Van Xuan who hit the cross bar but also luck when the other wing back Van Do hit a shot and a defender kicked it and it trickled into the net. But nobody cares, a goal is a goal. That really killed the game and maybe has mentally effected Indonesia. The Philippines would have loved seeing the third goal go in, they believe they can get second place in this group.

Vietnam played a 3-5-2 but the major factor in my opinion was the performance of the three over age players. Obviously they are good players, but coach Park must also trust them off the pitch and they must also be showing leadership. Vietnam got superb performances from Hoang Duc and Hung Dung. They dominated central midfield and made excellent long passes to the two wing backs. The two wing backs were finding space by staying deep and providing good crosses. Tien Linh almost "bullied" the Indonesian defenders.

Vietnam have got off to an excellent start, a great result but most of all a very professional performance. The crowd at Phu Tho will return as they could see the Vietnamese players gave everything for their country. Coach Park will be a happy man for now. The pressure he has been under from the media will have been quite rightly lifted. The key now is to rotate the players, keep them fresh for the vital games in the later stages. Keeping the over age players free from injury is also essential. But Vietnam have made themselves clear favorites, I wonder what Mano Polking the Thailand coach is thinking!

*Steve Darby is former Thailand national coach.

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