PHÚ THỌ — As he enters his last tournament as Việt Nam's under-23s head coach, coach Park Hang-seo admits that his team is under some pressure but the players will do their best to bring joy to the supporters.
"This year's SEA Games is at home in Việt Nam, and we are the defending champions," said Park. "The Vietnamese supporters are putting a lot of hope on our players. That's a bit of pressure, but I believe that they will give their all to please the supporters."
"In terms of preparation, the whole team are prepared mentally and physically for the tournament. It's my last tournament as the under-23s head coach. Myself and the players will do our best," said Park.
Việt Nam under-23s will begin their defence of the SEA Games men's football gold against Indonesia on Friday, who they beat 3-0 at the last Games in the Philippines in 2019, to claim their first SEA Games gold.
When asked about their opponent, Coach Park praised his compatriot Shin Tae-yong, who is currently in charge of Indonesia.
"We beat Indonesia three years ago, but Mr Shin was not coaching them back then. They have a different manager, a different team with imported players and players playing in foreign leagues, so this Indonesian side is much better than the one we faced three years ago," said the 63-year-old Korean.
Many of the players in the Indonesian squad played in the AFF Cup 2020, where they held Việt Nam to a 0-0 draw in the group stage. When asked about this experience and how Việt Nam now find a way through Shin Tae-yong's defence, Park said: "Realistically, we do not know how Indonesia will play in this tournament, but we have prepared countermeasures against them, and we will be flexible in order to have a great result in the coming match."
One of Park's possible solutions, top striker Nguyễn Tiến Linh, was slightly injured in a training match on Tuesday. There are fears that Việt Nam's top scorer at the World Cup qualifying games might miss their opening match in Phú Thọ.
"There are some Indonesian reporters here so it's best that I don't talk about Linh," Park said with a smirk. "Seriously though, Linh's problem is not massive. He's still doing OK."
On the other side of the pitch, Indonesia under-23s coach Shin Tae-yong is confident that his team can shock the home team and deliver a win.
"I watched Mr Park three years ago on TV when he was winning against Indonesia," said Shin. "I feet happy that he's doing great here in Việt Nam, and I will try to do my best also for Indonesia."
When asked about Việt Nam, Shin said: "Last time we met, I can say that Việt Nam had better players and a great squad depth. But we have players in Europe, as well as domestic players, and we are confident that we can do better, not only against Việt Nam, but in this whole tournament as well."
Việt Nam will face Indonesia in their opening match of Group A at 7pm Friday at Việt Trì Stadium, Phú Thọ. — VNS