Vietnam held Thailand to a 2-2 draw in their last group-stage game to secure a semifinal berth as Group B’s leaders in men’s football at the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in the Philippines on Thursday afternoon.
The Vietnamese staged a comeback at the Binan Football Stadium, about 100km from the Filipino capital of Manila, where striker Nguyen Tien Linh scored twice to correct goalkeeper Nguyen Van Toan’s blunder.
The young Golden Dragons conceded an early goal only five minutes into the game as the ball hit Thai striker Supachai from a careless goal kick by Van Toan and bounced back into the Vietnamese net.
Only six minutes later, Van Toan once again failed to catch the ball from a shot by Suphanat, creating the chance for the Thai player to finish it in his second attempt, doubling the lead for the young War Elephants.
The two blameworthy mistakes were thought to have shattered Vietnam’s spirit but the Vietnamese players proved they did not.
Tien Linh found a spot among three Thai defenders to catch a pass from Thanh Thinh and head home in the 15th minute of the first half.
After shortening the gap, Vietnam exerted more effort but only to see the scoreboard remain 2-1 by the interval.
|Vietnam's and Thailand's players vie for possession during their last group-stage game at the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in the Philippines on December 5. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The young Vietnamese took more possession after the break but they were unsuccessful in their attacks.
As Tien Linh received the ball from a right-wing pass by Hoang Duc and threatened the Thai woodwork, a Thai defender had to foul the Vietnamese striker inside the box.
The referee then awarded the junior Golden Dragons a penalty in the 69th minute.
While Vietnamese fans were still in disappointment when Tan Sinh missed the penalty, they were immediately overjoyed when their team were given a second chance, as Thailand’s goalkeeper Nont had made his move and Vietnamese striker Ha Duc Chinh had raced into the box before the penalty was taken.
It was Tien Linh who took the second try and excellently tricked Nont to level the game.
Although Vietnam strived for a victory, they had to accept the 2-2 tie as they netted no more goals later.
Despite the draw, Vietnam completed their group stage as Group B’s leaders with 13 points after five games, while Thailand were eliminated as they only ranked third with ten points.
Indonesia followed in second with a point lower than Vietnam after their 4-0 triumph over Laos in the other game on Thursday.
Vietnam and Indonesia will thus advance to the semifinals, with the former taking on Group A’s runners-up Cambodia and the latter facing Myanmar on Saturday.
In men’s football, participating countries sent under-22 players to compete in the tournament, with two overage footballers allowed on each 20-member team.
The Vietnamese have been striving for a gold medal in men’s football since 1975.
Team Vietnam places second in the medal table of the ongoing SEA Games, hosted by the Philippines, with gold 30 medals, 34 silvers, and 39 bronzes at the time of writing.
The team sets a target of winning at least 60 gold medals and ranking in the top three in the end.