HARD TO WATCH: Coach Park Hang-seo and his assistants on the bench as Việt Nam crash out of the AFC U23 Championships to North Korea yesterday by two goals to one. VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Linh
HÀ NỘI — The good news is the Việt Nam U23 football team will get to celebrate Tết (Lunar New Year) with their families.
The bad news is that they'll be home after crashing out of the Asian Football Confederation U23 Championship on Thursday.
Coach Park Hang-seo's side fell to a 2-1 defeat to North Korea in their final game in Group D, condemning them to a bottom-place finish and an early exit from the tournament in Thailand.
The defeat was a disappointing end to a tournament that had promised so much, but in truth this squad didn't have anywhere near the quality of the team that reached the final two years ago in China.
The 'Golden Dragons' came into the game at Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium knowing they had to win to have any chance of going through to a quarter-final against South Korea and hope the United Arab Emirates-Jordan result went their way.
Coach Park selected his team with attack in mind and restored striker Hà Đức Chinh to the starting line-up, alongside two other changes from the team that drew 0-0 with Jordan on Monday.
The Vietnamese started on the front foot with a barrage of long, diagonal balls causing the North Korean defence all sorts of problems, but the first chance fell to the team in white.
Just nine minutes in, Kim Kuk-jin was played in down the right and had a sight of goal, but his shot went wide of Bùi Tiến Dũng's post.
In the 15th minute the Vietnamese scored the opener and ignited hope across the nation, as a long ball played Hồ Tấn Tài in on the right hand side, allowing him to square for Nguyễn Tiến Linh, who applied the finish.
The lead would only last nine minutes however, and it was Dũng at fault for the equaliser.
Kang Kuk-chol took a speculative shot from a free-kick from at least 35 yards which hit Dũng's bar and then bounced back into the net off the goalkeeper for an own-goal and the sort of howler Dũng is becoming synonymous with.
Half-time came brought some good news in that Jordan led the UAE, meaning all Việt Nam needed was to beat the North Koreans to go through.
Việt Nam started the second half on top and dominated possession, allowing them to create several openings, which all went begging.
Chinh, Linh and captain Nguyễn Quang Hải all missed good opportunities to score, while in the other Group D game, the UAE equalised in the 79th minute, leaving Việt Nam needing a minor miracle.
It felt like it wasn't to be and that feeling was confirmed in the 90th minute when substitute Trần Bảo Toàn fouled Kim Kwang-hyok in the box to concede a penalty.
Ri Chung-gyu stepped up and slotted it home, condemning Viet Nam to defeat and an early exit. There was still time for defender Trần Đình Trọng to get sent off for an elbow off the ball late on, completing a miserable night. — VNS