Are Vietnam really going to use new formation at World Cup qualifiers?

By Xuan Binh   May 31, 2021 | 06:08 pm PT
Are Vietnam really going to use new formation at World Cup qualifiers?
Coach Park Hang-seo in a training session of the national team in UAE, May 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa.
Coach Park Hang-seo might change the formation at the upcoming World Cup qualifiers since opponents have become familiar with the old tactics of the Vietnamese team.

"Our previous tactics were quite predictable, but now we are testing something different," he said in an interview last week in Dubai.

"In December last year the players said they didn't really feel comfortable with new formation. The important thing is that we gave the players time to get used to it."

Since his first big tournament with Vietnam, the 2018 AFF Cup, Park has always been using the 5-4-1 formation with five defenders, four midfielders and only one striker.

This has made the defense strong, and the two wing-backs move up when attacking.

Last December, when the team played two friendlies with the Vietnamese U22 team, Park tested a slightly more attacking 5-3-2 formation. The midfielders fell back when defending, while two of them moved up when attacking with the third remaining in position.

There are three possible reasons why Park wants to use the 5-3-2 formation at the World Cup qualifiers this month. First is the unfortunate injury to Do Hung Dung, the deep-lying midfielder for whom Park has been unable to find a replacement for.

The second reason is that Vietnam are lucky to have several quality attackers like Nguyen Quang Hai, Phan Van Duc, Nguyen Van Toan, Nguyen Tien Linh, and Nguyen Cong Phuong.

The third reason is that Vietnam need to get at least seven points from the remaining three matches to secure a place in the final qualification round, and so Park hopes, with a more offensive formation, to win the first two games against Indonesia and Malaysia.

The downside of a 5-3-2 formation is that the midfield is often outnumbered and a counterattack poses a big threat. When using 5-4-1, the team has two midfielders even when two of them move up or down.

It was a surprise that Park made his tactics public, especially since he has been keeping a distance from the media lately.

He has only allowed reporters for the first 15 minutes of every training session. He also prevented players from being interviewed after the team reached the UAE.

So one cannot rule out the possibility that all this is an elaborate charade to confuse opponents, who will surely be looking for some intelligence on one of the top teams at the qualifiers.

He used the 5-4-1 formation in Vietnam’s previous five games at the qualifiers, and the Golden Dragons remained unbeaten to go top of group G.

So the question is, is Park really planning to change a winning formula?

Either way, the mystery will be revealed at the kickoff against Indonesia on June 7.

Vietnam play Malaysia on the 11th and the UAE on the 15th.

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