|A nation’s hopes: Coach Park Hang-seo (centre) and his players train in preparation for the AFC U23 Championship. Việt Nam will play Qatar in the semi-finals today in Changshu. - Photo VF|
Việt Nam’s coach Park Hang-seo said this at a press briefing ahead of the match yesterday.
In the last four rounds, Việt Nam have been in a disadvantageous situation compared to their rivals in terms of physique.
Apart from their thin and small fixture, Vietnamese players were exhausted after the thrilling quarter-final match that lasted for 120 minutes and included penalty shootouts.
But coach Park believed his players could again defeat a big rival.
“My players have to work hard, but they have great spirit that will help them overcome their physique problem in the upcoming match,” he said. Park and his team made headlines after their outstanding performance from the group round to the quarter-finals.
Viet Nam, now called the “giant killer,” lost only to South Korea in a match where they scored first, before knocking out powerhouses Australia, Syria and Iraq.
“We felt the pressure from the first match with South Korea. We know Qatar are very strong and the upcoming match is important for both sides,” Park said, adding Qatar are also under pressure to win and his players have just as much to lose as their more experienced opponents.
Park said his players spent a lot of energy after four difficult matches but had been preparing well for the semi-final with strong determination.
A big disadvantage for Park and the team, however, will be the absence of key player Đoàn Văn Hậu in the semi-final match owing to injury, which may end the tournament earlier than expected.
Hậu, the tallest player in the team, is a firm defender whose style is to play in attack. The member of the national U22 squad and senior team assisted teammate Nguyễn Quang Hải score the opener in the match against South Korea in the group stage.
Park said he had a few players who were yet to get a break and he might make a few changes in the team to face Qatar.
According to the 61-year-old coach, Qatar are strong but they also have some weaknesses that Việt Nam can take advantage of.
Park said Qatar were a powerhouse from the Middle East, but he and his assistants watched their matches and discussed a suitable plan.
“Qatar have several good players who would be well-controlled during the game. It would be our first job. We will try hard to attack on their disadvantages and we will see if it works or not tomorrow,” he said at the press conference.
Speaking with media, midfielder Phan Văn Đức said the Vietnamese team would do their best in the match to make the nation proud.
“I will play as if it is my last game. It is a game for Việt Nam, for our supporters, families and friends,” said the 22 year old, who was called to the squad in the last moment.
According to statistics, Đức has the highest number of on-target shootings, with one goal in the quarter-final, highest accurate tackles of four and two assists that converted into goals for Viet Nam.
Meanwhile, coach Felix Sanchez of Qatar praised Việt Nam’s power in previous games, saying it would be the most difficult rival in the championship so far.
He said it would be a hard match because all teams in the semi-final were strong, however his team would have the best result against Việt Nam.
“They beat Iraq. It will not be easy for us, but we are ready for it,” Sanchez said.
“We have watched all the games in the competition, and we know how Việt Nam have been playing,” explained the Spaniard, who guided Qatar to the 2014 AFC U19 Championship trophy, on the-afc.com.
“They are an organised team, and they have talented players. But we are going to try to play in our way and stop them from doing what they usually do so well. In this type of (knockout) game, the small details are going to be very important, and you can pay a big price for small mistakes.
“Hopefully, we can be effective in all the things we know we have to do well and be organised enough not to allow Vietnam to play to their strengths,” said Sanchez. He thinks experience is also going to be a plus point for his team.
Qatar captain Ahmad Moein said he did not have much information about Việt Nam but knew it were a team with potential after their win over Iraq. They would be a big challenge to Qatar, he said.
According to Moein, the semi-final would be a chance for his side to fix their mistakes that caused them to lose at the previous championship in which they unexpectedly finished fourth on home soil. Qatar would not let the disappointment repeat this time, he said.
Việt Nam and Qatar have met several times in the past. At the 2008 Olympics’ qualifier, Việt Nam had a draw and a loss. On the level of national team, Việt Nam won two, drew one and lost one.
The first semi-final match will be judged by Singapore referee Muhammad Taqi, one of four referees from Southeast Asia, from 3pm today in Việt Nam’s time the Changshu Stadium.