Nguyễn Tiến Linh celebrates after scoring for Việt Nam against Cambodia on Sunday. Việt Nam face Thailand in the semi-finals on December 23 and 26. Photo of affsuzukicup.com
HÀ NỘI — Park Hang-seo and his players will treat Thailand like any other team in the ASEAN Football Federation Cup semi-finals, even though they are considered Việt Nam's most difficult challenge in the regional tournament.
Việt Nam beat Cambodia 4-0 on Sunday to secure second place in Group B. They will play Thailand, the winners of Group A, over two legs on December 23 and December 26.
"My players worked hard to win 4-0 but it was not enough to lead the group, as Indonesia beat Malaysia 4-1 - they had a better goal difference. But I am pleased with the result of our match," Park said at the post-match press conference.
"Our next game is against Thailand, who topped Group A, but it does not matter; all teams in this round are dangerous. Thailand are a strong side, the match against them will be competitive and aggressive," said Park.
The South Korean coach pointed out that Việt Nam will have one day less to rest and recover than Thailand, but he wasn't worried as his management team have been carefully monitoring the nutrition of his players.
When asked about the fact that Việt Nam are the only team to have kept a clean sheet in the tournament so far, Park stressed his players, especially the defenders, have been doing a good job. Over the next three days, he will work to improve his players in front of goal and strengthen the defensive line for the semi-finals.
Midfielder Nguyễn Quang Hải, who was player of the match against Cambodia, regretted that he did not convert more chances when the team knew that goal difference would come into effect.
"It is a pity I could not score more goals against Cambodia, but we gave it our all. Facing Thailand or Singapore in the semi-finals is the same. Our next rival is not a problem. The importance here is how we win," said Hải, who grabbed a goal and assist.
Striker Nguyễn Tiến Linh, who got a brace in the first half, said he was pleased after a quiet start to the tournament. He said he is delighted that Việt Nam have advanced to the semis and that playing Thailand is exciting as they are a strong side.
"If we want to be champions we must beat every team, so Singapore and Thailand are the same. We hope that the semis will be great and that we can score some beautiful goals," said Linh, whose goal in the third minute was the 10th fastest ever scored at the AFF Cup.
Striker Nguyễn Tiến Linh's stunning 25 yard strike is in the running for the goal of the round. Photo of affsuzukicup.com
Linh has been named in the top five best players of the group round and is in the running for the top spot, via a vote on the AFF Cup website. His second goal, a stunning effort from 25 yards out, is in the running for the goal of the round too.
Việt Nam have met Thailand nine times in the AFF Cup, winning two, drawing two and losing five.
However, in their most recent clashes, Việt Nam have beaten Thailand twice, once in the 2022 World Cup's second qualification round and once in the 2019 King's Cup.
The 4-0 win over Cambodia on Sunday was Việt Nam's 13 consecutive unbeaten match in a row in the AFF Cup. Under Coach Park, Việt Nam have gone on a 33-match undefeated streak in ASEAN regional competitions.
Singapore hold the record for the longest undefeated streak in the tournament, between 2004-2008. Their streak was stopped by Việt Nam in the semi-finals of the 2008 Cup.
Việt Nam then defeated Thailand to win the trophy for the first time.
If Việt Nam win or draw against Thailand in the next game, they will set a new unbeaten record. The match kicks off in Singapore's National Stadium at 7.30 pm Hà Nội time. VNS