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Which teams are hopefuls for SEA Games 31 Football title?
Minh Vu 16:10, 2022/05/05
Vietnam is believed to retain its regional football title while Indonesia appears to be a strong candidate.

Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand are believed to be candidates for the men’s football gold medal at the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games 31), with the matches to begin on May 6.

All the three competitors have been evaluated to have strengths enough for winning the football crown at the event, which gathers 10 teams, including Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Timor Leste, and the Philippines. 

 Coach Park Hang-seo and his players for SEA Games 31. Photo: VFF

Vietnam

The home team, which is the defending champions, is considered to have the best chance with some players whose qualifications have been proved through recent competitions, including the Third Round of the World Cup 2022.

In preparations for the regional biggest sports festival, Coach Park Hang-seo picked three players over 23 years old, including forwarder Tien Linh, captain Hung Dung, and midfielder Hoang Duc who won Vietnam’s golden ball award in 2022.

Hoang Duc played nearly 20 matches for the Vietnamese men’s national team in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers and the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2021.

In addition, a group of three center-backs Bui Hoang Viet Anh, Nguyen Thanh Binh, and Phan Tuan Tai are the best choice for the position as they made impressive performances in matches versus Oman and Japan in the Third Round of the World Cup 2022.

Park Hang-seo picked 20 players for SEA Games 31. Sharing before the tournament, the South Korean tactician said his men are under pressure of defending the title due to expectations from local supporters but he believed that the players had good preparations for the matches.

 Indonesia U23 squad in a friendly match in South Korea in April 2022. Photo: PSSI

Indonesia

Local commentators believed that Indonesia was the big rival to Vietnam instead of Thailand. They argued that Indonesia’s Coach Shin Tae-yong is the one who understands Park Hang-seo the most since both of them are South Korean and the Indonesian coach has shown his experience through matches of the World Cup   and AFF Cup 2020.

Shin Tae-yong’s line-up has several good players, including Saddil Ramdani, who is playing for Sabah FC, Malaysia, Asnawi Mangkualam playing for Ansan Greeners FC, South Korea, Egy Maulana Vikri and Witan Sulaeman playing for FK Senica, Slovakia. In SEA Games 30 in 2019, Vikri and Sulaeman contributed a lot to the silver medal of the Indonesian football team.

Meanwhile, center back Elkan Baggott, 20, is expected to lead the defensive force of the Garuda thanks to his time in Ipswich Town, the UK.

Among three players above 23 including Fachruddin Aryanto and Ricky Kambuaya, 28-year-old naturalized Marc Klok is the best name. He is playing for Persib, the second in the Indonesian Champion League.

The Indonesian extended U23 squad at SEA Games has eight players from the national team, becoming top candidate for winning the tournament.

Interestingly, Vietnam will face Indonesia in the first match on May 6. Before the match, fans lined up for tickets at Viet Tri Stadium in Hanoi’s neighboring province of Vinh Phuc on May 3. For them, it would be a must-watch match between the top teams. 

 Thailand's coach Mano Polking and his men leave for SEA Games 31 in Vietnam. Photo: Bangkokpost 

Thailand

Coach Mano Polking struggled to gather the team and had little time for training but the glorious history of the War Elephants brings worries to any team. They made it to the finals 25 times, winning 16 gold medals, four silvers, and five bronzes.

Notably, Mano Polking showed his impressive head-to-head record. For a coach knowing well Southeast Asian football, he is good at changing situations and is believed to advance to the finals easily with not so strong rivals in the tournament.

According to Bangkok Post, the Thai team is led by three overage players -- goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan and midfielders Worachit Kanitsribumphen and Worathep Pomphan.

They also feature three overseas-based players Jonathan Khemdee (OB Odense, Denmark), Benjamin Davis (Oxford United, England) and Chayapipat Suphannapeset (Estoril, Portugal).

The Thais, who were last crowned champions in 2017, were eliminated in the first round at the previous SEA Games in 2019.

Despite problems in their preparations for the tournament in Vietnam in May, Polking is upbeat about Thailand’s chances of winning gold.

“There are several factors and this may not be our best preparations,” said the German-Brazilian tactician. “But we have good management and good players, who will do their best. It is not easy to reach our target of winning the gold medal but it is possible. So Thailand’s aim to become SEA Games champions is correct,” Bangkok Post cited him.

Polking guided Thailand to win the AFF Suzuki Cup in January.

The men’s football tournament will last from May 6 to May 22 with 24 matches to take place at Viet Tri Stadium in Vinh Phuc Province, Thien Truong Stadium in Nam Dinh Province, and My Dinh National Stadium, Hanoi. 

 Tien Linh (1st left) and Hoang Duc (2nd left) of Vietnam. Photo: VFF
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