Just like Malaysia, Vietnam's success at junior level is pushing the senior team on and at the helm of it all is head coach Park Hang-seo. The South Korean guided the Vietnamese side to an impressive runner-up finish in the 2018 AFC U23 Championship and now attempts to do the same with the senior team.
The AFF Suzuki Cup has not been a happy hunting ground for Vietnam with the football-mad country only achieving success in the regional tournament once, way back in 2008. But with the momentum gained from the U23 and the progression of players from that level to the senior side, expectations in Vietnam is reaching fever pitch.
Thus far, they have only played one match and they beat Laos easily 0-3 in Vientiane, a team which Malaysia struggled to beat in Kuala Lumpur despite the final scoreline of 3-1. With the two facing each other on Friday, Tan Cheng Hoe has already handed the favourites tag to Vietnam but Park reckons it's just mind games from the Malaysia head coach.
"We appreciate the respect from the Malaysian team but we still need to fight for 90 minutes. Malaysia head coach may say he is happy with one point but I don’t think that’s what he actually mean. It’s just something he says in a press conference."
"Since 1998 to 2013, we got 3 wins 2 draws and 2 loss against Malaysia team. So at the moment we are not thinking about getting a specific result. But we are preparing well and we will do everything we can to achieve a win.
"I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur to see Malaysia as well as my coaching staffs have watch them. So we are well prepared for everything tomorrow," said Park in the pre-match press conference on Thursday.
The last time Malaysia step foot in My Dinh Stadium for a competitive match, the 2-4 result favoured the away side and sent Harimau Malaya to the final of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup and that is a defeat that still hurt the Vietnamese football fans.
They will be hoping that this time around, with a new group of players, that they will finally realised their potential that started with qualification to the 2017 U20 FIFA World Cup and the AFC U23, riding on the new found wave of optimism from the fervent home fans.
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