Defender Ho Tan Tai confident in coach Park and teammates for 2020 AFC U23 Championship

Sunday, 2020-01-05 10:09:30
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Tan Tai will be suspended in the Group D opener of Vietnam against UAE but still expressed his trust in his head coach and teammates.
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NDO – Defender Ho Tan Tai has put his faith in coach Park Hang-seo and his teammates in the upcoming 2020 AFC U23 Championship, saying that Vietnam U23s is a collective that’s always support one another.

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

Tan Tai opened up at the press before a training session of Vietnam U23s in Bangkok on January 4. The Becamex Binh Duong defender is with his team going through the final preparation stages for the continental tournament, which will kick-start on January 8 in Thailand.

Vietnam are in Group D with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The reigning runners-up have targeted a slot in the top three of the upcoming tournament to claim their first ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, they will play their opener against the UAE in Buriram on January 10 without the service of Tan Tai as he will be suspended after he received two yellow cards during the qualification stage.

For the promising 22-year-old player, this is of great sadness for him, however Tan Tai showed his complete confidence in his team’s ability. "I'm a bit sad but it's okay. The team does not depend on any individual. I trust coach Park and my teammates because we always support each other to succeed," Tai told reporters as quoted from the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF).

In a 2-1 defeat to Bahrain U23s in their last friendly to prepare for the tournament on January 3 afternoon, Tan Tai was also present at the end of the match. Despite the defeat, Tai said the team have learned a lot from the match to prepare appropriately for the 2020 AFC U23 Championship. It is crucial that the whole team has shown their fighting spirit and followed the playstyle set by the coaching board, he stated.

Ho Tan Tai during a press interview before his team’s training session on Saturday morning, January 4, 2020.

Tan Tai also expressed his joy when witnessing the return of key centre-back Tran Dinh Trong after a long time out treating a ligament injury. "Dinh Trong’s return is a good news for the team as he is very important," said Ho Tan Tai.

Trong is considered Vietnam’s best defender at the moment but after having been on the operating table twice in less than a year, the Hanoi FC defender missed many important tournaments in both the Vietnam U23 and senior teams in 2019.

He has played a part in recent friendlies, even in the first half of the previous loss to Bahrain, however, Park is still cautious on Trong’s recovery and excluded him from the 23-member list from 25 players submitted to the AFC on January 2. Nevertheless, teams are allowed to make changes to their 23-member list up until six hours before the start of their first match at the tournament, and the Korean coach is waiting in the hopes that his best defender can return fully match fit on time.

If Trong does not guarantee his fitness for the tournament, Vietnam will greatly miss him. However, in the last year when Trong was out treating his injuries, the Vietnamese defensive line has still performed well in multiple tournaments, thanks to Park’s scouting of new talents when replacing Trong.

Hanoi FC defender Tran Dinh Trong (C) during the friendly against Bahrain U23s on January 3, 2020.

After screening almost 71 players over nine training camps in the past year, Park and his colleagues have found promising new up and coming defenders, including Huynh Tan Sinh, Nguyen Duc Chien and Le Ngoc Bao, along with Trong’s teammate in Hanoi FC Thanh Chung. They have proved their talent in previous tournaments, from the 2020 AFC U23 Championship qualifiers that took place in March 2019 in Vietnam, where the hosts won all three matches and scored 11 goals without conceding a single goal, to the successful 2019 Southeast Asian Games in December last year, where Vietnam scored 20 goals and conceded only four in seven matches before claiming the historic gold medal after a 60 year wait for one.

For that reason, it can be said that Park has prepared all the contingency plans if Dinh Trong cannot play in the upcoming campaign.

On Saturday morning, Ho Tan Tai and a group of players who did not play many minutes in the friendly with Bahrain kept training on the field under the guidance of assistant coach Lee Young-jin. Meanwhile, the other group of main players from the previous match only had a light training session right on their hotel premises.

Ho Tan Tai (C) and his teammates during the training session on Saturday morning, January 4, 2020.

For three players still on their road to recover from injury, including Dinh Trong, Thanh Thinh and Trong Hung, they went to a local hospital for MRI screening with the team’s doctor Choi Ju-young to check for their injuries for one last time. Based on the doctor's report, head coach Park Hang-seo will make a final decision on the official list of 23 Vietnamese U23 players to attend the tournament.

All Dinh Trong, Trong Hung and Thanh Thinh played in the last match against Bahrain. However, the playing time and performance of each was different. It all depends on the level of their injury recovery. Therefore, Dr. Choi needs to acquire the final assessment on the players’ injuries to give his expert advice to coach Park.

Vietnam U23 squad were off training on Saturday afternoon, before returning to the field on Sunday afternoon (January 5). They will move to Buriram on Monday and then officially kick-start their campaign on January 10 with the Group D opener against UAE.

Photo: Vietnam Football Federation