Vietnam take positives despite 2-1 defeat to Bahrain ahead of 2020 AFC U23 Championship

Saturday, 2020-01-04 10:32:38
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Captain Quang Hai (far left) and his teammates have gained a valuable experience after the friendly with Bahrain U23s before officially entering the 2020 AFC U23 Championship. (Photo: Vietnam Football Federation)
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NDO – Coach Park Hang-seo and his players showed many positive signs despite a 2-1 defeat to Bahrain U23s in a friendly held in Thailand on January 3, as part of their preparations for the upcoming 2020 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Championship.

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The continental championship is scheduled to be held in Thailand from January 8 to 26 and Vietnam – the reigning runners-up from 2018 falling only to Uzbekistan in the final – are aiming for one slot in the top three of the upcoming tournament to claim their first ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

As part of their preparations for the tournament, Park’s men had a friendly match behind closed doors against Bahrain U23s in Bangkok yesterday afternoon. Since the match was just a friendly, both times were allowed to us unlimited substitutions, so Park fielded in all of his players at different times during the match to test their ability.

Vietnam U23s starting line-up for the friendly against Bahrain U23s on January 3.

Vietnam were the better side for most of the time, enjoying the lion's share of possession. Bahrain could not apply much pressure on Vietnam, however, they took advantage of their two best opportunities and scored two goals in the first half.

Vietnam continued to play better in the second half but their sole goal came only in the final minutes thanks to defender Huynh Tan Sinh’s effort from the spot.

The good news is that Vietnam avoided any injuries to the squad and playing against a strong team like Bahrain U23s also helps the coaching staff to make more accurate assessments of their players' performance, before making a decision to finalise the 23-member official list from the current 25-man squad for the AFC tournament.

The score of the friendly does not fully reflect where the Vietnamese side are before the tournament, but many positive signs could still be seen in the match.

Tran Dinh Trong – Vietnam’s best centre-back at this time – made his presence in the starting line-up after returning back from his long-term injury. In the previous friendly match against Becamex Binh Duong five days ago in Ho Chi Minh City, Dinh Trong was only allowed to enter the field in the last 20 minutes. After a series of separate tests, Park once again verified the ability of his best defender to prepare him for the important campaign ahead.

Hanoi FC defender Tran Dinh Trong (C) is one of the biggest exclusions in the 23-member list that coach Park Hang-seo submitted to the AFC on January 2. However, he still played in the first half in the friendly against Bahrain U23s on January 3.

With the absence of SC Heerenveen’s left-back Doan Van Hau, Park has also piloted some players that could replace the versatile defender. One of them is midfielder Nguyen Trong Hung, who attacked a lot on the wings in the match against Bahrain U23s. The Thanh Hoa FC’s player has been striving to get used to his new position since the friendly with V.League 1 side Becamex Binh Duong. If the test is successful, Park will have more surprises up his sleeve for his opponents in Thailand.

The 2-1 defeat to Bahrain U23s is also the last friendly match for Vietnam U23s before the AFC tournament. In total, the team played four friendlies with two wins, one draw and one loss. The good news is that there were no players injured during the pre-tournament friendlies.

The result of the match is mostly irrelevant and merely a chance for Vietnam to practice putting into play their preparations in the last months before the 2020 AFC U23 Championship.

Vietnam showed many positive signs despite the 2-1 defeat to Bahrain U23s in their friendly.

As scheduled, Park’s side will continue their training camp in Bangkok until January 6, before moving to Buriram – the venue for their first two matches in the group stage. With two more days of training in Bangkok and four days in Buriram, Park will have to eliminate two more names to finalise his official squad.

Earlier, on January 2, Park shortlisted 25 players for the continental championship, from which two names, including Dinh Trong and Viettel FC forward Nham Manh Dung, have been excluded in the latest list submitted to the AFC. However, teams are allowed to make changes to their 23-member list up until six hours before the start of their tournament.

Park’s side are in Group D with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The reigning runners-up will play their opener against the UAE at the Buriram Stadium in Buriram Province on January 10.

Photo: Vietnam Football Federation