Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Alfred Riedl has told people not to call Nguyễn Hữu Thắng his player anymore, since Thắng is now a colleague.
Years ago, Riedl was head coach of the Việt Nam national football team and Thắng was one of his key defenders.
Time has clearly flown.
Riedl is now coach of the Indonesian squad and Thắng manages Việt Nam. The two teams will play each other in the semi-finals of the ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup on December 3.
In their latest encounter last month as preparation for the Cup, Indonesia drew one match with Việt Nam and lost the other.
Riedl at that time said Thắng was a talented coach. Under his guidance, Việt Nam were one of the title favourites for the biennial tournament.
Riedl, who was called ‘king of second place’ by Vietnamese fans, took charge of the Việt Nam team on three occasions — in 1998-2000, 2003-04 and 2005-07. His best result was second position at the AFF Cup and the SEA Games. During his first Tiger Cup (now the AFF Cup) in 1998, captain Thắng was one of his favourite players.
In between, Riedl also coached Khánh Hoà (2001) and Hải Phòng (2008) in the V.League.
The Austrian coach also has a Vietnamese kidney donated by a huge fan during his time here. His love for the country is evident — he has a house decorated in the Vietnamese style in his home town of Viena.
It will be the first meeting between Riedl and Thắng at an official tournament, but it is the second time Riedl with Indonesia will face Việt Nam since he left the side.
At the AFF Cup in 2014, Indonesia drew 2-2 against Việt Nam, under Japanese Toshiya Miura in the group round, which saw Việt Nam in top position and Indonesia getting disqualified.
In that match, striker Lê Công Vinh and centre back Quế Ngọc Hải scored two goals for Việt Nam.
At this Saturday’s game, Riedl will have a chance to meet these scorers again, along with midfielders Nguyễn Văn Quyết and Phạm Thành Lương, all of whom are at peak performance and excited for a win.
Riedl said Việt Nam who won all three out of three matches in the group round were stronger than his team. He affirmed that Indonesia would face a lot of difficulty in the two semifinal matches.
He also appreciated playmaker Vinh, also a player under his responsibility in the past.
In 2003, Riedl called up the then unknown Vinh to the U23 team, an important turning point in the latter’s life. Since then, Vinh has become a familiar face of the national team and the most famous footballer of the country.
Riedl said he knew how outstanding Vinh was. He had good speed and was born with the skills of a goal scorer.
At this year’s cup, Vinh netted the ball twice and had nine key passes.
Meanwhile, coach Thắng also showed his respect for his former coach.
“Riedl is always a coach who I respect a lot. He is a very professional manager who creates a friendly atmosphere for players, but he is also really serious in training and gave us stern orders. We worked hard for Việt Nam’s success in the late 1990s,” Thắng said.
Thắng and his team arrived in Indonesia on November 30, three days ahead of their match at the 30,000-capacity Pakansari Stadium in Bogor, 50km from Jakarta. — VNS