After a challenging tournament, in which a goalkeeper was subbed on to play in midfield in the semifinal, Vietnam’s U23 team are ready to write a storybook ending in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) U23 Youth Championship final against Thailand on Saturday in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The game will be broadcast live at 7:30 pm on the national channel VTV6 and the FPT Play platform.
Speaking at a pre-match briefing, head coach Dinh The Nam said his squad have faced difficulties from the beginning of the tournament, with several players testing positive for COVID-19, but overcame them all to reach the final against Thailand.
His players are keen to beat their archrivals for the second time this week.
Vietnam beat Thailand 1-0 in their last Group C game on Tuesday evening to advance to the AFF U23 Championship semifinals as one of the three group winners.
As the best runners-up in the group stage, the Thai players also secured a ticket to the semis, where they defeated Laos 2-0 to set up a final against Vietnam.
“Vietnam beat Timor-Leste after a penalty shootout [in the semifinals] to meet Thailand [again] in the final,” Nam said.
“Besides COVID-19, we are facing a physique problem as we had to play more than 120 minutes in the semis, which cost us a lot of energy.”
According to the latest update as of Friday night, Vietnam will have 15 players ready to play with Thailand as three cases who had contracted COVID-19 earlier recovered from the disease.
While saying his side are in a better place regarding COVID-19, Thailand’s head coach Salvador Garcia expressed his hope to face a strong Vietnamese side with enough players.
The Spanish trainer believes that the final game would be very different from the group-round one because only three Vietnamese players who defeated Thailand some days ago could play in the coming match.
The 2022 AFF U23 Championship, which has been hit hard by COVID-19, has three groups.
Group A has hosts Cambodia, Timor-Leste, the Philippines, and Brunei while Group B includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Laos.
Indonesia and Myanmar have backed out of Group B because of a myriad of COVID-19 infections on their teams.
Vietnam and Thailand were drawn in Group C, alongside Singapore.