Suzuki Cup: Confident Vietnam aim to book semi-final berth with Indonesia win

SINGAPORE – Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo often delivers gruff, humdrum answers in press conferences.

But the 64-year-old South Korean could not resist cracking up on Tuesday (Dec 14), during the pre-game conference a day ahead of their Suzuki Cup Group B game against Indonesia at the Bishan Stadium.

Park laughed when asked what he thought about Indonesian media describing his team as being unimpressive thus far, and as their flanks as being a weak point.

“If they feel our wings are not strong, they can attack them,” said the coach. “We welcome them.”

He has reason to be confident.

Defending champions Vietnam have won both their games so far, first against minnows Laos (2-0) on Dec 6 and then crucially against Malaysia (3-0) last Sunday, in what was a rematch of the 2018 Suzuki Cup final.

The latter result means that another win against Indonesia would secure Vietnam a berth in the semi-finals.

Asked if the impressive display against Malaysia represented a statement of Vietnam’s intent to retain their title, goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung said: “We don’t care what the other teams think (of us). We only care about how we play and winning the game.”

Park said there was more to come from his team, and that despite clean sheets in both games, there were backline issues with focus that needed to be rectified.

But he added that Indonesia, tipped by some as the competition’s darkhorses, have defensive problems themselves.

Despite scoring nine goals in their first two games, against Cambodia (4-2) and Laos (5-1), the Garudas have conceded thrice against lowly opposition, and Park said he was keen to capitalise on such frailties.

Indonesia coach Shin Tae-yong, also a South Korean, admitted he was worried that his players might pay too much respect to the Vietnamese, a problem Malaysia coach Tan Cheng Hoe had identified as a key reason in his side’s loss to them.

“Yes (that) is something that could actually happen,” Shin, who led South Korea at the 2018 World Cup, said. “But our young players have been training well and I believe they will show their best on the field tomorrow.

“Vietnam are, of course, a great team… there is no doubt they are the strongest team in this Suzuki Cup.”

Shin, 52, also brushed aside Park’s comments about welcoming Indonesia to attack his team’s perceived weaknesses on the wings.

“Yes, Park Hang-seo talks like that,” he said. “But what will happen on the pitch, we will only see tomorrow.”

The game between Vietnam and Indonesia kicks off at 8.30pm at the Bishan Stadium, while Cambodia and Laos play in the other Group B game earlier on Wednesday at the same venue.

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