BANGKOK (VNS) — A disappointed Viet Nam was sent home after the group stage for the first time since 2006 following a dismal defeat by 10-man Thailand in its last group A match at the AFF Suzuki Cup at Rajamangala, Bangkok, Thailand.
Striker Kirati Kaewsombut scored a hat trick for host team Thailand. Viet Nam's only goal was scored by midfielder Nguyen Van Quyet in the second half.
The loss ended Viet Nam's chase for a second title. The team entered the tournament with high expectations after a positive run of results in the build-up to the event.
The team's worst campaign in four recent tournaments was a blow for Vietnamese football, which has gone through problems in the local league. It was as also a disappointment for Hung, the first local coach to take over the national team in nearly two decades.
Viet Nam entered the match with a slim hope of qualifying for the semi-finals after disastrous results again Myanmar and the Philippines. However, a group of fans still arrived Bangkok to cheer the team.
Already securing a semi-final berth after two wins, Thailand made seven changes in the starting line-up, resting their key players. This, combined with their less aggressive approach allowed the Vietnamese side to dominate possession.
But the difference between two teams was the imagination and creativity at the business end of the pitch that saw Viet Nam struggling to convert their possession into real chances, while the Thais were quick and sharp in catching Viet Nam on the break.
Viet Nam's first chance fell to the foot of Cao Sy Cuong, who delivered a powerful shot that licked the bar of Thai goal just nine minutes into the game.
In its first attack, Thailand had the opening goal 21 minutes into the game when Kirati tapped in from close range after Apipoo Suntornpanavej's cross deflected from a Vietnamese defender and fell into his path.
There was more enterprise from the Vietnamese side in the beginning of the second half. This pushed the Thais harder in search of the equaliser, but what Hung's players lacked was the ability to pierce the Thai defence.
Kirati Kaewsombut seemed to kill off lingering hopes remaining in Viet Nam's dugout when he headed home his second goal.
Quyet brought a glimpse of hope to Viet Nam when he cut the gap to one goal in the 72th minute by heading home Cao Sy Cuong's cross just a minute after sending off of Arthit Sunthornpit.
Some hopes were aroused by the advantage in numbers. Quyet's goal was quickly shattered 10 minutes later with Kirati completing his hat trick when his header was deflected home by defender Nguyen Gia Tu.
Despite the profligacy of Luong and Tai, Viet Nam never came close to any moments that could change the game, instead struggling to deal with Thai power and technique.
The defeat in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2012, preceded by the country's failure at the Southeast Asia Games last year in Indonesia, means it's time for football authorities to go to the root of the problem. — VNS