Vietnam (in red) entered SEA Games 31 with lots of doubts, especially after the U23 team suffered a poor performance at the friendly Dubai Cup, where they ranked 9th out 10 teams.
In the first game, Vietnam played Indonesia, a contender for the gold medal in this SEA Games.
Indonesia's defensive approach caused many difficulties for Vietnam in the first half. But in the second half, the overage players helped Vietnam break the tie, with goals from Nguyen Tien Linh and Do Hung Dung, before Le Van Do secured the 3-0 win for the hosts.
Coach Park Hang-seo and his assistants celebrated when Hung Dung made it 2-0. This was a special game for Park since his opponent was fellow South Korean coach, Shin Tae-yong.
However, in the next game with the Philippines, problems started to show. Although Vietnam dominated with 80 percent possession and dozens of shots, they couldn't find a way to score on a rainy night at Viet Tri Stadium, Phu Tho, and accepted a 0-0 draw.
Vietnam (in red) played the third game against Myanmar under must-win pressure and once again had trouble finding the net against a defensive opponent.
Park told the players to take advantage of set pieces, but Vietnam couldn't convert any corners or freekicks into goals. Time was running out and it seemed Vietnam would get another disappointing draw.
But captain Hung Dung rescued Vietnam with an elegant finish from an assist of Van Do. The 1-0 victory put Vietnam on top of group A and they only needed a draw in the last game to proceed.
The opponent of Vietnam (in white) in the last game was Timor Leste, the weakest in group A and coach Park only used the reserve team. Vietnam as usual had a rough first half with a powerless offensive line.
The goals came in the second half thanks to Nguyen Van Tung and Ho Thanh Minh. Vietnam ended the group stage with 10 points, six goals and conceded none.
In the semifinals, Vietnam (in red) faced Malaysia, second placed in group B. Malaysia didn’t use any overage player this SEA Games but they played well and even beat Thailand 2-1 in the group stage. Like Vietnam, they were also unbeaten in their group.
Malaysia defended well in this game and showed great fighting spirit. They forced Vietnam into extra time and only conceded in the last minutes when their stamina ran out.
Home fans experienced a rollercoaster of emotions in this game, from disappointing missed chances, nervous counter-attacks to immense joy after Tien Linh scored the winning goal in the 111th minute.
The final challenge of Vietnam (in red) was none other than Thailand.
Despite losing the first group stage game, they won all their next meetings and scored 13 goals.
Vietnam were able to control the tempo of the game thanks to skilled midfielders. The team created many chances in the first half, but their strikers couldn't convert them.
It was thought that the game would have to enter extra time. But in the 83rd minute, substitution Nham Manh Dung with an amazing header scored the winning goal for Vietnam.
After the game, Vietnam players gathered around and made a trampoline for coach Park as they threw him in the air. This is Park's third title with Vietnam after the 2019 SEA Games gold medal and 2018 AFF Cup.
Vietnam concluded their fruitful SEA Games journey with eight goals scored and didn't concede a single one.
The eight goals scored by Vietnam at SEA Games 31.
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