Vietnamese players are confidently waiting for their away tie in the 2018 AFF Championship against Malaysia tonight, December 11, with several footballers and coaches holding the faith that the Golden Stars will clinch the title again, after their first trophy exactly ten years ago.
Malaysia drew 2-2 with Thailand at the semi-finals, but qualified for the final thanks to the away-goal rule, while Vietnam secured their place at the tournament decider with a 4-2 aggregate win over the Philippines.
The first-leg final match will take place at the Kuala Lumpur-based Bukit Jalil National Stadium at 7:45 pm (Vietnam time). Vietnam will host the Malayan Tigers at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi on December 15.
By Monday, Vietnam completed two training sessions in Kuala Lumpur in preparation for the clash with the home side.
In an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper before the training on Sunday morning, midfielder Luong Xuan Truong said that he and his teammates were ready for the game.
The Vietnamese midfielder considered Malaysia “strong opponents with many noteworthy special talents.”
While Vietnam had watched Malaysia played both in the tournament’s group stage and semifinals, the team would continue to “study the recorded videos of those matches of Malaysia once again during Monday’s training session,” the 23-year-old said at the Sunday interview.
|Vietnam’s midfielder Luong Xuan Truong practices during a training session in Kuala Lumpur on December 9, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The teams in fact met in the group stage, where Vietnam beat the Malaysians 2-0 on home soil.
But this does not mean Vietnam can underestimate their opponents, especially when they will be playing against the host in an 87,000-seat stadium
“Playing at the Bukit Jalil Stadium will not be easy for us,” Truong said of his team’s caution about the pressure of playing on the Malaysian turf.
“But at the same time, we are eager to know the feeling of competing at such a large stadium.”
Meanwhile, Sven Goran Eriksson, coach of the Philippines – who were knocked out 2-4 on aggregate by the Golden Stars after the tournament’s second semifinal last Thursday, believed that Vietnam can repeat their 2008 success to lift the AFF Championship trophy for the second time after ten years.
|Vietnam's Quang Hai performs a bicycle kick during their second leg against the Philippines in the 2018 AFF Championship semifinal in Hanoi on December 6, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The Azkals’ manager said that Vietnam have been the most impressive team he has seen this year and it is very likely that they can trump Malaysia in the two-legged finals.
“I believe that Vietnam are the firm favorites to win the title this year. They have been playing very well,” said Eriksson.
“And after playing against Vietnam twice, I feel that they are the best team in the tournament. It will be a very good final between Vietnam and Malaysia.
“Vietnam have some good individual players but they are strong as a team. And it has been tough to play against them.”
Vietnam beat the Philippines 2-1 in their away tie, and claimed the second victory with the same score when they hosted the Azkals in Hanoi.
Another coach in the same mind with Eriksson is Henrique Calisto, who led Vietnam to the top of the AFF Championship, contested by ten nations affiliated to the ASEAN Football Federation, in 2008.
That year, Vietnam also had to play their first-leg final away, but they eventually secured a brave 2-1 win against Thailand in Bangkok.
As the away-goal rule was not applicable for the 2008 AFF Championship, Vietnam had to avoid a defeat to win the title. Star strike Le Cong Vinh netted a header in the last seconds of the game, allowing Vietnam to hold Thailand 1-1 and win 3-2 on aggregate to claim their first and so far only ASEAN title.
Ten years from that historic moment, the Golden Stars are hoping to see history repeat itself.