|Việt Nam players celebrating 21-year-old Nguyễn Thị Thanh Nhã (19)'s goal, which sealed their fourth consecutive SEA Games gold medal. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyết|
PHNOM PENH — The Việt Nam national women's football team won their eighth gold medal in the 32nd SEA Games, by winning 2-0 against Myanmar in the final on Monday.
Captain Huỳnh Như opened the score for the Golden Star Women Warriors early in the first half, before young striker Nguyễn Thị Thanh Nhã sealed Việt Nam's victory late in the game.
Mai Đức Chung's girls went into the match at full strength, after comfortably beating hosts Cambodia 4-0 in the semifinals.
Their opponent Myanmar staged an amazing 4-2 comeback to shock favourites Thailand, but have to endure a grueling battle with the former FIFA Women's World Cup participant.
Both teams have met each other earlier in this tournament, with Việt Nam winning 3-1 in their group stage match.
Thousands of Vietnamese supporters flocked to the Olympic Stadium to cheer on the girls in red, a scene not many could have imagined years ago.
Việt Nam did not disappoint their fans, and displayed dominance right off the bat. In the 2nd minute, Nguyễn Thị Tuyết Dung's clever free-kick found Huỳnh Như free in the box. The 2023 Vietnamese Women's Golden Ball winner, however, did not have a favourable position to line up her shot, which went over the bar.
Như, who is the only player of the team playing abroad in Portugal, did not have to wait long for her goal. The dynamic duo of Tuyết Dung and Như combined again, but this time Như's job was easier, having only the empty net in front of her, as Tuyết Dung cleverly rounded Myanmar's keeper.
Two minutes later, Myanmar replied with a vicious shot from Mon Myint that hit the post. But that's about the closest Myanmar could get to troubling Trần Thị Kim Thanh's goal.
Việt Nam went back to their tight defensive game after Myint's shot, and even grasped control of possession to slow down the pace. However, they still got dangerous chances from counters. In the 33rd minute, Tuyết Dung exposed a mistake in Myanmar's defence, which left Huỳnh Như through in a one-on-one. Như's shot, however, was too tame for Mya Nyein.
Việt Nam started the second half with an even slower pace, forcing Myanmar to go for tougher challenges. One such challenge led to key player Trần Thị Thuý Nga's knee injury in the 50th minute. Nga was sent straight to the hospital for assessment.
Mai Đức Chung brought on Trần Thị Thanh Nhã in the 58th minute, hoping to utilise the young striker's pace and technique to trouble the fatigued Myanmar players.
The change worked wonders for Việt Nam, by granting their second goal in the 75th minute. Thanh Nhã sprinted past two Myanmar players, breaking the offside trap and fired a cheeky lob into the top corner that startled Mya Nyein.
The girls in red stayed strong in the final minutes to secure their fourth consecutive SEA Games women's football gold medal, as well as their eighth in total.
The gold medal solidified Việt Nam's stature as the best team in the region, widening the gap with their rivals Thailand, who finished this tournament as bronze medalists.
Việt Nam women's football team, however, will not have enough time for rest, as they will get ready for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in June. — VNS