2018 AFF Suzuki Cup in Review

Success stems from collective power

Monday, 2018-12-17 11:35:46
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Solidarity and a resilient fighting spirit have inspired Vietnam to their second AFF Cup triumph.
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NDO – The 2018 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup officially wrapped up after over a month of vibrant and fierce competition between the ten national football teams from across the region, with the overall championship title clinched by the Vietnamese side. Those advancing to the semifinals and the final demonstrated their collective strength, the timely shining of talented individuals, and the tactical flexibility in different games.

* [INFOGRAPHIC] Vietnam's Road to 2018 AFF Cup Glory

* Vietnam win second AFF Cup trophy

A tally of 80 goals scored in 26 matches, 3.07 goals per game on average, was a vivid manifestation of the teams giving attention to an attacking and devoted football. The quality of expertise in clashes was significantly improved, with, for example, the semifinal and final matches having been decided by narrow margins. Generally speaking, the work of match organisation was relatively good; however, in some encounters, the referees were not really objective and impartial, causing dissatisfaction among the viewers.

Park Hang-seo’s Vietnamese troops were the most impressive performers throughout the tournament with an eight-game unbeaten streak (six wins and two draws), scoring 15 goals and conceding only four times (two against the Philippines and two against Malaysia). For the first time in nearly two decades, Vietnam conceded the fewest goals at a regional showpiece, which demonstrated resilience in their defence. A solid combination between goalkeeper Dang Van Lam and the three defenders, namely Que Ngoc Hai, Tran Dinh Trong and Nguyen Duy Manh, left no chance for the opponents’ strikers to find the back of the net. The attacking power of the “Golden Stars” was similarly impressive, with seven scorers holding the positions as midfielders and forwards.

Many ideas have stated that Vietnam football currently possesses a “golden generation” of young talented players who have great bravery and a resilient fighting spirit, which have been demonstrated at the AFC U23 Championship, the 18th Asian Games and the 2018 AFF Cup. Some players, including Van Hau, Van Duc, Duc Huy and Tien Dung, are just at the early stage of their 20s and still have a lot of time to further improve themselves. With such momentum for progress, it is quite possible for them to conquer even more major milestones in the future. Most outstandingly, the talented and brave midfielder, Nguyen Quang Hai, proved himself as a “connection bridge” between the defenders and the attacking line of Park’s side. At the young age of 21, Hai has displayed his acumen through the manner in which he handles situations on the field. He played an indispensable role in sending the Vietnamese squad to the AFC U23 final, the 2018 Asian Games semifinals and the 2018 AFF Cup trophy.

The “Golden Stars” have been coached by an experienced and competent tactician, who has flexible and wise substitutions in different matches and knows how to inspire his players to achieve success. Park Hang-seo is considered an ambassador of friendship between Vietnam and the Republic of Korea (RoK). It can be seen that the collective power has helped build up the success of Vietnamese football today. As stated by Fox Sport Asia, the team spirit, effective attacking, resilient defence, and stable form were the factors showing that Vietnam deserved to win their second AFF Cup trophy in history. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s news channel, Astroawani, admitted that “the Malaysian Tigers could not create a miracle at My Dinh Stadium. Vietnam were the better”.

Despite missing out on the overall title, the Malaysian team, coached by Tan Cheng Hoe, have proved their real strength. Finishing as the runners-up was a manifestation of the Harimau Malaya’s progress. With a young and confident squad, Malaysia will also have further chances to prove themselves in future tournaments.

Ahead of the tournament, Thailand were considered the odds-on favourites for this year’s regional title. As such, stopping in the semifinals was somewhat unacceptable to a team who had been crowned champions five times previously. After the 2018 AFF Cup, Thailand will surely draw lessons of experience in order to make a stronger comeback in the 2020 version.

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