The Local Game: History is written by the victors

May, 17/2022 - 08:38

Việt Nam may have topped Group A and reached the semi-finals of the SEA Games men’s football, but their performances in Phú Thọ Province have been far from convincing.

 

Việt Nam laboured to a 2-0 win over minnows Timor Leste on Sunday night. — Photo vietnamplus.vn

Peter Cowan

So far, so shaky.

Việt Nam may have topped Group A and reached the semi-finals of the SEA Games men’s football, but their performances in Phú Thọ Province have been far from convincing.

The opening night 3-0 win over Indonesia aside, coach Park Hang-seo’s young charges have flattered to deceive in every outing.

From where I sit the main problem has been an inability to break down the packed defences that the pre-tournament favourites were always bound to come up against.

Sunday night’s 2-0 win over Timor Leste was another example.

Even though Park chose to rest most of his top players for the game against the group’s weakest team, Việt Nam still should have been much more comfortable winners.

Instead, they needed two headed goals from good but not particularly creative deliveries to pull away from a side that conjured up a few dangerous opportunities of their own.

The gap in footballing resources between Timor Leste and Việt Nam should have resulted in a much more convincing victory, particularly for a team playing in front of a home crowd.

In some senses, it shouldn’t be that surprising that this Vietnamese side looks so inferior to the team that won the last SEA Games back in 2019 given how many talented players have aged out, but then again, Park et al have had plenty of time to prepare for that eventuality.

So, what’s to be done?

The answer is to, for now, keep grinding out close wins, because if they take gold, no one will care how they did it.

History is written by the victors and it’s much the same in football.

The fabulous Spain team that won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa are rightly lauded as one of the best ever international sides, but few remember how torturously boring a lot of their matches at that tournament were.

Likewise, it won’t be long before it’s forgotten that Viettel won the 2020 V.League 1 off the back of enough 1-0 wins to make even George Graham envious.

So forget about this Vietnamese team suddenly turning into a swashbuckling outfit and blowing away whoever is unfortunate enough to meet them in the semi-final.

Instead, they should lean into their strengths by keeping things watertight at the back and relying on the rabid home crowd to suck the ball into the net at the other end.

In the long-term, Việt Nam have to learn how to play with more verve if they want to fulfil their potential and truly dominate Southeast Asian football, otherwise they’ll just fade away once this generation of players retire.

For now though, the short-term and two 1-0 wins are all that matter. — VNS