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|Mastermind: Vietnam’s head coach Park Hang-seo. - VNA/VNS Photo|
Vietnam’s head coach Park Hang-seo hails from South Korea, and the match has been billed as a derby between two South Korean coaches.
Vietnam enjoyed an historic 1-0 win against Syria in their quarter-final on Monday, while South Korea beat Uzbekistan in a 4-3 thriller.
After beating Uzbekistan and before the Vietnam game had been decided, South Korea’s coach Kim Hak-beom didn’t hold back tear of happiness when he told South Korea’s JoongAng Daily he was waiting Vietnam’s head coach Park Hang-seo.
He has created a quality and stable team. I believe it will be very interesting if South Korea meet Vietnam in the semis, he said.
After helping Vietnam beat Syria, Park also expressed respect for his compatriot.
“We are close friends. The two teams are staying in the same hotel so we meet each other a lot. Kim is very good tactically and is considered the Alex Ferguson of the K-League. I faced him many times in the K-League. We will try to play an attractive and spectacular semi-final,” said Park.
Park told the media that he had been supporting South Korea, but would help Vietnam beat them to reach the final.
“I was moved to tears after South Korea beat Uzbekistan in the quarter-finals. As everyone knows, I love my country very much,” said Park.
“But at present, I am head coach of the Vietnam team. My responsibility is the team. I will make every effort and prepare to bring glory to Vietnam in the semi-finals. We want to beat South Korea to reach the final,” Park added.
In 2002, Park helped South Korea to the semi-finals of the World Cup as assistant to Guss Hiddink, but now things have changed.
“In 2002, I was assistant to Guss Hiddink and now I am head coach. In 2002, my team stopped in the semi-finals but this time, we will overcome South Korea to reach the final,” said Park.
Facing South Korea won’t be easy as the team has many quality players.
At the AFC U23 Championship held in China in January, Vietnam lost to South Korea 2-1 in the group stages. At ASIAD this year, only four of the Korean players who competed in China remain, while most of the Vietnamese squad is still together, including Nguyen Cong Phuong, Nguyen Quang Hai, Bui Tien Dung, Nguyen Van Toan and Luong Xuan Truong.
South Korea are determined to take gold in Indonesia, and they have called up their leading stars who play overseas including Son Heung-min, Lee Seung-Woo and Hwang Ui-jo.
Son, 26, is considered the best striker in Asia at present, and plays for Tottenham Hotspur. He has been given leave from his Premier League club to take part in Indonesia as one of the three overage players that each team is allowed.
However, Vietnam team are not afraid of facing South Korea and are ready to make history again with their intelligence, bravery and unity.
“We’ve reached the semi-finals and become one of four best teams in Asia so we aren’t afraid of taking on anyone,” said striker Nguyen Van Toan who scored the only goal in the match against Syria on Monday.
The winners will progress to the Asian Games final to face either Japan or the United Arab Emirates on September 1.