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Fans unsatisfied as Vietnam midfielder rejects suspected AFF Cup rigging

Saturday, December 13, 2014, 16:00 GMT+7
Fans unsatisfied as Vietnam midfielder rejects suspected AFF Cup rigging
Vietnam's Pham Thanh Luong (R) controls the ball during the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinal match against Malaysia at My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi on December 11, 2014.

Vietnamese football supporters have growing doubts over the national team’s performance in their AFF Suzuki Cup semi second leg this week so a long, heartfelt letter from a midfielder to defend the loss is not enough to please the angered fans.

With a probe expected to be launched into the shocking 2-4 defeat of Vietnam against Malaysia in the semifinal in Hanoi on Thursday, midfielder Pham Thanh Luong took to Facebook to reject the match-fixing allegations.

“Would players have received a huge amount of money if they had fixed the match? And for whom they did so? Could the police officers that accompany the team not detect this?” Luong said in a lengthy status update.

“On the other hand, if we had won, we would be living now in happiness and cheers from many people. And there would be cash awards, too. It’s a reality.”

Vietnam were only a step away from the Cup finale when they hosted Malaysia at My Dinh Stadium after a dramatic 2-1 comeback win in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

But the team left 50,000 supporters on site and millions more countrywide embittered after conceding four goals in the first half and eventually suffering a shocking 2-4 home defeat to let the visitors set up a final with Thailand with a 5-4 win on aggregate.

Vietnam’s defenders played as if they were drowsy and novices in the Thursday match, unlike the brave men that defied the tough play of the Malaysians only four days earlier.

Le Hung Dung, chairman of the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF), said after the match that he “couldn’t help doubting this game” and thus would call for a probe into it.

Luong asserted in his Facebook status that he and his fellows played for passion and desired to win the match more than anyone else.

“But as Brazil could also suffer big losses, don’t expect us to be invincible,” he said, referring to the 2014 World Cup semifinal when Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by Germany at home.

The Vietnamese midfielder said the players have to shed sweat and even blood to stay with their career, and accusing them of rigging the match “hurt the pride of the players and their families.”

“Match-fixing is betraying your country. Please don’t turn brave soldiers into sinners.”

Malaysia won the match while barely breaking a sweat as all of the four goals were ‘gifted’ by the Vietnamese players.

That is why few supporters were convinced by what Luong said.

Angered fans flooded the status update with comments shortly after it surfaced.

“Who wouldn’t doubt such a style of play? Malaysia netted goals as if they were playing with primary students,” Kien Nguyen commented under the post.

Similarly, Hoang Minh Tuan said fans have the right to doubt as “four goals were ‘presented’ to Malaysia by the Vietnamese goalie and defenders, like giving gifts to children.”

Another Facebook user, Duong Manh Hung, said Luong’s point of view does not represent the whole team.

“Provided that you have nothing to do with the suspected corruption, how could you be sure about other players? People cast doubt when they see signs of corruption. Why did you have to explain it?” he wrote.

The idea was supported by Nguyen Dang Quang, who said “one scabby sheep is enough to spoil the whole flock.”

Luong’s citation of the Brazil case in the World Cup was also challenged by supporters.

“Brazil were defeated by a strong team, and Neymar was not playing then,” Hong Hai Van said.

“Vietnam could make mistakes in the match, but why were there so many similar mistakes?”

Luong told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper via telephone that he has trust in his teammates.

Mistakes and own goal

In the second minute of the Hanoi game, defender Ngoc Hai played foul against Malaysian midfielder Indra Putra from behind when he was in the box and Malaysia were awarded a penalty shot.

This stemmed from an awkward Vietnamese formation easily losing the ball to their rivals right from the beginning of the game. Defender Safiq Rahim defeated Vietnamese goalkeeper Nguyen Manh to open the scoring.

In the first leg in Kuala Lumpur, it was Rahim who scored the opener for his team from the penalty spot before Vietnam netted two goals to seal a 2-1 win.

In the 15th minute, keeper Manh and defender Van Bien ‘gifted’ Malaysia the second goal following a long pass by midfielder Badhri Radzi. Bien and Manh resigned the ball to each other, giving defender Idlan Talaha the chance to have the ball and double the advantage to 2-0.

Six minutes later, Vietnam shortened the gap to 1-2 thanks to a goal from the penalty kick after attacking winger Nguyen Van Quyet was pulled down in the Malaysian box. Le Cong Vinh stepped forward and subdued the Malaysian goalie.

In the 29th minute, Malaysia went up 3-1 after Vietnam’s central defender Tien Thanh ‘donated’ the visiting team another score through an own goal.

Malaysia extended the gap to 4-1 from a corner kick on the right in the 43rd minute. The ball was crossed to the Vietnamese box and striker Fadhli Shas headed it to unmarked defender Shukor Adan who headed home neatly and easily.

The hosts again shortened the difference to 2-4 following a quick shot by Le Cong Vinh in the 79th minute. From an attack launched from midfield, Vinh was set up in a favorable position and blasted a shot to defeat Malaysian keeper Farizal Marlias.

Malaysia will play in the AFF Cup final with Thailand on a home and away basis on December 17 and 20.

The Thais trounced the Filipinos 3-0 in Bangkok on Wednesday after a goalless draw in Manila on Saturday last week.

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