Vietnam men’s football team defeated Thailand 1-0 to defend its title in the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games 31) on May 22 at the 40,000-seat My Dinh National Stadium, Hanoi.
Vietnam won the gold medal without conceding a goal during the tournament that gathered all 11 Southeast Asian teams.
Nham Manh Dung’s header in the 83th minute, which was kept unchanged until the match ended with five-minute injury time, sparking the excitement of the packed sports stadium was attended by Vietnam's top leaders, including President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Chairman of the National Assembly Vuong Dinh Hue, and Permanent member of the Central Party Committee's Secretariate Vo Van Thuong.
Vietnam, which won the championship for the first time in 60 years in 2019 under the leadership of coach Park Hang-seo, continued its momentum as the Southeast Asian champion by winning the championship for the second time in a row.
This is the first time Vietnam won over Thailand after encountering the War Elephants five times in the SEA Games finals.
Nham Manh Dung said it’s the most valuable goal in his career as the match took place in his homeland. Meanwhile, sports commentator Ta Bien Cuong of the Vietnam Television (VTV) said the goal is like a European moment on Southeast Asia’s pitch.
During the match, Thailand’s possession rate was higher than Vietnam's most of the time, but no sharp attempts were made to threaten the home team’s goalkeeper Nguyen Van Toan. Vietnam held its strengths to make repeated attacks in the last 20 minutes. The Vietnamese players missed some chances to increase the match’s score.
Efforts paid off
Thailand is praised for having good forward line by scoring 13 goals before the final match versus Vietnam. Meanwhile, Vietnam is hailed for solid defense that ESPN’s Gabriel Tan called “impregnable.”
He called the match a classical case between two teams that have dominated Southeast Asian football in the past decade.
“Having said that, Thailand are yet to come up against a side like defending champions Vietnam in this edition of the SEA Games,” Gabriel Tan said, noting that the record of no goals conceded in five games is “emblematic of the football the Vietnamese are renowned for under coach Park Hang-seo.”
Most impressively, this is a new batch of youngsters at U23 level without any of the standout names from the golden generation that currently stars for the senior team.
Giving post-match speech, Thailand’s Coach Mano Polking said: “Vietnam is strong, with the support of 40,000 spectators. They defended well, played long balls and were patient. Their players hold the ball and take advantage of better opportunities. Nham Manh Dung’s beautiful goal is proof that they deserve to be champions. Anyway, Thailand also played well. We created many chances, but failed to score.”
Former player of Thailand’s National Team Teeratep Winothai said Thailand U23 lack sensitivity and sharpness in the final attack situations. The War Elephants need to be more subtle in their touches of the ball in the opponent's half to score and make a difference.
Vietnam’s Coach Park Hang-seo said he and his team were under pressure to win and responsible for expectations from local spectators to defend the title that Vietnam could earn after 60 years. Vietnam men’s football team bag the gold medals of the 30th SEA Games in 2019.
Sharing in the post-match press conference, Park confessed that the process of winning two consecutive championships was never easy. “As having a lot of expectations from the public and it was the last tournament [as head coach of U23 team], so I was very stressed out from the sense of duty and responsibility to achieve good results as a manager,” he said.
After this tournament, coach Park Hang-seo will focus on the National Team and South Korean coach Gong Oh-gyun will take over the baton of the U23 national team
“For now at least, with their second consecutive SEA Games gold medal, they have proven they are not going away anytime soon,” Gabriel Tan said after the match, adding that Vietnam will get the chance to reclaim their status as kings of Southeast Asian football, not just at U-23 level but also on the senior stage and believed they will play well in the next Suzuki Cup at the end of the year.
The win helps fuel Vietnam's efforts in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup to take place in Uzbekistan in June where Vietnam will face South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand.
The heat of the match was revealed through crowd gatherings across the country. Groups of hundreds to thousands of people gathered in halls or cafés to support the home team. Before the match, tickets were marked up to VND20 million (US$870)/pairs.
In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate the victory. The game ended for quite some time but the celebrations on the streets of some big cities Hanoi, Danang, Ho Chi Minh City, Ha Long, and Haiphong went on.
|Vietnam U23 football team win gold medals at SEA Games 31. Photos: Ngoc Tu-Duy Khanh/The Hanoi Times|
|Nham Manh Dung (17) makes the only goal to beat Thailand in the match on May 22.|
|Players honor Coach Park Hang-seo in their way.|
|The team sing Vietnam's national anthem.|
Vietnam's top leaders congratulate the team.
|President Nguyen Xuan Phuc congratules Coach Park Hang-seo.|
|Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh congratulates Park Hang-seo.|
|Chairman of National Assembly Vuong Dinh Hue congratulates the South Korean tatician.|
|Local people celebrate the victory after the match ended in the evening.|
|Supporters are from children|
|...to the old.|
|Supporters on the streets.|