|Coach Park Hang-seo has presided over Vietnamese football's most successful era. Photo courtesy of Việt Nam Football Federation
All good things must eventually come to an end and Park Hang-seo’s reign as Việt Nam’s coach certainly qualifies as a good thing.
The South Korean strategist signed off with a loss in the AFF Cup final last night to Thailand, but that does nothing to diminish his accomplishments. With the end of the coach Park era, let’s look back at three moments that defined his time in the hot seat.
Reaching the AFC U23 final
Park was hired in late 2017 but it didn’t take him long to write his name in Vietnamese footballing history. In January 2018 he masterminded the national U23 side’s run to the final of the AFC U23 Championship in China, where they narrowly lost out to Uzbekistan.
While Việt Nam didn’t come home with the gold it was the country’s best ever performance in a continental level competition and a harbinger of what was to come under Park. The dogged defensive performances on display at the tournament would become a signature of the Korean coach.
Winning the 2018 AFF Cup
While a smaller stage than an AFC competition, the AFF Cup is hugely important to football fans across Southeast Asia, so lifting this title was a huge accomplishment for Park. The group stage and semi-final were, in truth, a walk in the park (no pun intended) for this supremely talented Vietnamese team.
The final against Malaysia, however, provided a sterner test.
After a commendable 2-2 draw away from home, Việt Nam lifted the title in Hà Nội’s Mỹ Đình Stadium thanks to a 1-0 victory courtesy of an early goal.
The professional way Việt Nam saw out the game was a hallmark of a coach Park side – while it may not have been pretty they got the job done.
World Cup glory
For me Park’s greatest achievement was bringing Việt Nam closer to qualifying for a World Cup than ever before.
Reaching the third and final round of Asian qualifying for the first time ever was impressive enough, but to pick up four points in the final round was even more spectacular.
While I didn’t always love watching the stoic football Park’s side produced against some of Asia’s top teams, it did mean Việt Nam were never truly humbled, with the exception of a 4-0 defeat away to Australia.
Whoever succeeds coach Park has their hands full trying to live up to that glittering record. VNS