December 14 – Vietnam will be the favourites to win the Suzuki Cup on Saturday when they host Malaysia at the My Dint National Stadium in Hanoi in the second leg of the final.
The Vietnamese have the advantage of two vital away goals from the 2-2 draw in the final’s first leg.
Nguyen Huy Hung scored the opening goal for Vietnam, exploiting some lax defending from the hosts and just three minutes later Vietnam doubled their lead as Pham Duc Huy’s 25-yard attempt deflected off Syamer Kutty Abba and dipped beyond Malaysian goalkeeper Farizal’s dive.
Buoyed by an 82,000 strong partisan crowd, the hosts rallied and struck before half-time through a header from Shahrul Saad. After the break Malaysia equalised from another set piece, when Safawi Rasid curled a free kick beautifully beyond Dang Van Lam.
“We know the way they will play and it was the same when we met in the group stage and it was the same in the first leg,” said Malaysia’s Cheng Hoe in an interview with ESPN. “Provocation is one of the key elements of their game. It can make you upset and you can lose your focus and make a mistake. That is what you have to avoid.”
“On Saturday, we have a home match and while it’s helpful and a big motivation for the players to have such support, it can also be a burden to have that kind of big support,” said Vietnam’s coach Park Hang-seo.
In January Vietnam will make their return to the Asian Cup for the first time since hosting the continental tournament in 2007. At the time, the Vietnamese exceeded expectations by reaching the quarter finals. They defeated the United Arab Emirates and drew with Qatar in the group stages, but in the knockout phase Iraq proved to be too strong, winning 2-0.
In the United Arab Emirates Vietnam will face Iran, Iraq and Yemen in Group D. The top two of each group progress to the knockout phase together with the four best third-placed teams. The Asian Cup kicks off on January 5.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1553072044labto1553072044ofdlr1553072044owedi1553072044sni@o1553072044fni1553072044