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Park Hang-seo continues to work his magic in Vietnam

Dec 08,2018
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Left: Vietnamese football fans cheer for their team during the semifinal match against the Philippines at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday. Right: Head coach Park Hang-seo coaches the team during the semifinals match. [AP/YONHAP]
Vietnamese football team head coach Park Hang-seo is continuing to work his magic, leading the Southeast Asian country to the final of the 2018 Suzuki Cup on Thursday.

After a 2-1 win in the first leg of the semifinals against the Philippines, led by former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Vietnam only needed a draw to advance to the final. The team came out strong in front of their home crowd, once again defeating the Philippines 2-1 at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday to advance to the final.

Vietnam had an aggregate score of 4-2.

“This is the first time Vietnam [has reached the] AFF Suzuki Cup final in 10 years,” Park was quoted as saying on Fox Sports. “I would like to thank Vietnam’s supporters and I would like to thank all my players for the game today.”

With the win, Vietnam advanced to the final of the Suzuki Cup for the first time since 2008. The Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championship, known as the Suzuki Cup, is a biennial football tournament among Southeast Asian countries.

Since the tournament was first hosted in 1996, Thailand has been the all-time powerhouse, taking home the most number of titles at five.

This year, Thailand was, once again, the favorite to win the tournament, but Malaysia took a surprise win to knock them out in the semifinals.

During the group stage, Vietnam defeated Malaysia 2-0.

The final will be competed in a home-and-away format. The first leg of the final will be at Bukit Jalil Stadium in Malaysia on Tuesday and the second leg will be at My Dinh National Stadium on Nov. 15. The aggregate score will determine the Suzuki Cup Champion.

In addition to Park’s leadership, he was, once again, highly praised by football fans for his humble attitude. After the match, Park was quickly being compared with Eriksson. Before Eriksson started coaching the Philippines national team, he coached a number of big name countries. Although Vietnam defeated the Philippines, Park stated that his coaching ability can’t be compared to Eriksson’s.

“I hope everyone does not compare me with coach Eriksson,” Park was quoted as saying. “He is a world class coach. I am very honored to [go against] him [in the Suzuki Cup]. Although I beat him twice, my level [as a coach] can’t compare to [his].”

After briefly coaching the Korean U-23 team and K League teams, Park was appointed as head coach of the Vietnam national football team in September 2017. Just three months later, Park led Vietnam to a historic run at the 2018 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in China, where the team finished runner-up.

The team played fiercely against Australia in the preliminary round before beating Iraq in the quarterfinal and Qatar in the semifinal. But as they surged into the finals, the team hit a snow storm, literally. Many of the team’s members had never seen snow before, and the weather conditions affected their play. Still, they pushed through a 1-1 tie until the final minutes of overtime, when Uzbekistan scored the winning goal.

The historic game garnered 140,000 online views, with online commenters calling Vietnam’s advancement proof of “Park Hang-seo’s magic.”

More recently, Park led Vietnam’s U-23 team to another miraculous run at the 2018 Asian Games. For the first time in history, the team advanced to the semifinals. Vietnam ultimately lost to Korea 3-1.

BY KANG YOO-RIM, SONG JI-HOON [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]