|Vietnamese players celebrate their second goal in the 2-0 win over Malaysia during the AFC U23 Championship. — Photo of VFF|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam set a record for being the first Southeast Asian team to advance twice to the quarter-finals of the AFC U23 Championship, on June 8 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
The SEA Games champions beat Malaysia 2-0 in the Group C action to qualify for the last-eight round, where they will play the winner of Group D, either Japan or Saudi Arabia.
The previous time, Việt Nam lost to Uzbekistan 1-0 in the last seconds of extra time in 2018.
Thailand and Malaysia are the two ASEAN teams that have qualified once.
At the post-match briefing, head coach Gong Oh-kyun said: "Việt Nam pocketed its first win at this tournament and earned a berth in the quarters, although no one thought we could make it before the competition."
"I am impressed with my players. I have done nothing, and it was all their hard labour."
Asked why he placed new faces in the midfield in the final group match, the South Korean coach explained: "There is no special reason. I have thought about the quarter-finals already, so I made my plans for this match. My players all have good fitness and are professional, so I bravely made changes."
Gong said he did not care much about the next team because they were all difficult. His team would focus on recovering first and discussing tactics later.
"We have not celebrated yet, because there are matches ahead. I asked my players about what they wanted. The answer was a new higher level. I understand and will bring them to a 'new land,'" Gong said.
On the Malaysian side, coach Brad Maloney was disappointed with his team's third loss in a row and being knocked out.
He said his players began the match well and played positively. But the penalty and the red card made it difficult to change the game.
After two draws and one win, Việt Nam are in second place in Group C, below South Korea who have two wins and a draw.
The Việt Nam Football Federation will give a VNĐ600 million (US$26,000) bonus for the team.
Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính and Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyễn Văn Hùng send their congratulations to the young players.
PM Chính encouraged the U23s and asked them to well prepare for the next match. He wants the players to compete with a spirit of fair play and for the nation's pride. VNS