A goalless draw against the Philippines Sunday night left hosts Vietnam frustrated and also upset the superb Phu Tho crowd who braved the appalling rain.
So what’s next for Vietnam? Theoretically, they have two easy games against Myanmar and Timor Leste. Obviously, they must win, but also, they must get as many goals as possible now, so that if the Philippines beat Indonesia, then goal difference will apply.
The vital senior players must continue to be picked. If Vietnam had won Sunday, they could have been rested for the easier games and kept for the semi-finals. Now that opportunity has been lost.
I rated the performance of center-back Nguyen Thanh Binh the highest. I give him a 9 out of 10. He reminded me of Virgil Van Dijk. He never looks worried, has pace and also is strong in the tackle. He brought the ball out of defense in an elegant style.
Nguyen Hoang Duc and Nguyen Tien Linh deserve an 8. Duc is a quality player who works hard, defends as well as attacks and is an intelligent player. I think he is Vietnam’s best footballer and should play in a much higher league.
Linh is also hard-working, makes very intelligent runs and is often in the right place at the right time. He never hides and physically threatens opposing defenders. Once he gets “composure” when shooting he will be a top striker.
Nham Manh Dung is a powerful player who worked hard but never looked like scoring. Never got into the right positions. His substitution Nguyen Van Tung looked similar. Tall and powerful but looked slow. He may do well against poor teams but struggle against quick defenders.
Captain Do Hung Dung is an excellent professional and is obviously a leader on and off the pitch as coach Park makes him an overage captain. He did his normal creative job and I was surprised when he was substituted. I give him a 7.
Le Van Do also deserve a 7 in this game. A frustrating player, never stops working, he also defends as well as attacks. He played on both sides of the pitch and took set-pieces. When he was on the left his crossing was poor. Also seemed unable to beat his defender one on one. This usually means a lack of pace over a short distance.
I mean Vietnam should not change their system 3-5-2 and have to keep their best players playing. They could have scored today but sometimes that happens in football. Against Timor and Myanmar, they should score. The structure was playing out from the back, passes to the two central midfielders, balls passed wide to the wing-backs, and crosses into the penalty box. But in the Philippines game, the crosses were poor.
I believe Vietnam should continue to play in the same system and structure as goals will be scored against weaker teams. Coach Park cannot change the technique of the players in such a short time. If they can’t pass the ball well under pressure now, maybe SEA Games is the international limit for some of them. They must however maximize their set-piece opportunities and not waste corners and free kicks.
As I frequently write, all that matters in tournaments is winning, it’s the only statistic that counts.
Vietnam will play Myanmar on Friday and Timor Leste Sunday.
*Steve Darby is a former Thailand national coach.
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