|On top of it: Viet Nam's U23 players seen training in March. Viet Nam are in Group B at the 28th SEA Games in Singapore. — VNS Photo Quang Thang
HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam will play against arch-rival Thailand during the upcoming 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore this June.
Just a day after the draw of the World Cup qualifier, the two teams will meet each other again in the Group B, along with Malaysia, Laos, Brunei and East Timor. Thailand, the defending champions, are the top seeded team in the group.
Group A with hosts Singapore as the top candidate, would include Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines.
This has not been an easy tournament for Viet Nam. Their main teams to beat are Thailand and Malaysia, who are placed higher than the rest.
Thailand was ranked fourth during last year's Asian Games. The regional winner had won a ticket to the Asian U23 Football Championship's qualifier a week ago.
They defeated Viet Nam 3-1 in a friendly match last month.
Malaysia has also set a high target for the SEA Games campaign with a long-term training course abroad.
Malaysia won the 25th and 26th Games and was ranked fourth during the last event in Myanmar in 2013.
They have always been Viet Nam's rival in different tournaments. During the 27th Games, Viet Nam suffered a 1-2 loss in the group round. During the 2009 Games, Malaysia beat Viet Nam 1-0 in the final to take the trophy.
To prepare for the Games, the U-23 team will start training on May 5 with 35 players. They will also play several friendly matches, including one against South Korea on May 9.
Coach Toshyia Miura has also been asked to guide his team to the semi-final round.
However, the Japanese said he wanted to be one of the finalists and more over win the tournament.
Miura has been questioned since his first appearance in Viet Nam a year ago as this was the first time he was coaching a national team. However, he has done a great job and made all his plans come true.
Talking about SEA Games in Singapore in June, the Viet Nam Football Federation's Le Hung Dung said what is important is that Viet Nam should prepare intensively for every game.
"There are always these teams in this region. The stronger ones are Thailand, Viet Nam, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. So in whatever group Viet Nam is, we have to always try to beat them one by one," said Dung.
He said the first goal would be to enter the semi-finals. Then every match from this round would be a final.
Former national coach Phan Thanh Hung did not foresee any difficulties for Viet Nam.
"In the Group B, Brunei and East Timor are weaker than the others. Laos has been growing up, but there has to be a distance to beat. Thailand, Viet Nam and Malaysia will fight for two tickets," said Hung.
He has also thought of meeting with them for the group round, which will give Viet Nam a chance to enter the final.
"If we can pass the first stage, our semi-final rival could be either Singapore, Indonesia or Myanmar, who have never been strong with their younger squads," Hung said.
Coach Tran Minh Chien, a former national striker, was of the view that if Viet Nam could enter the semi-finals, there was a big chance for it to become a finalist.
"The draw was in my opinion not easy, but favourable for us. We don't have to think how to avoid Thailand in the semis. What we have to do is pass the group stage, and then the road to the final is wide open, our chances are up to 80 per cent strong, I think," Chien said.
"Miura has done a good job of improving Vietnamese players' physique. The team has a flexible playing style and the coach has multiple choices for a position."
The football matches will commence on May 29. — VNS