Tough customers: Vietnam football team arriving at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport yesterday. — M. AZHAR ARIF / The Star
SEPANG: Vietnam are the first team to check in for the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games men’s Under-23 football competition, which will kick off on Monday.
And judging by coach Nguyen Hu Thang’s reaction upon arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) yesterday, Vietnam won’t be the first to check out from the 11-team competition either.
“We have done our preparations in South Korea and are ready to put up a good fight. The players are in good shape after the two weeks of intensive training.
“We also played a couple of warm-up matches there. We have a good chance just like any of the teams.
“This time Malaysia are the host and they will be the team to beat playing in front of their fans. We have a tough task in Group B with Thailand and Indonesia in the fray. My opinion is that all the teams have an equal chance to qualify for the semi-finals,” said Hu Thang.
Vietnam have qualified for the semi-finals six times since the 2001 KL Games. They have also managed three silvers – Vietnam 2003, Manila 2005 and Laos 2009 – and a bronze (Singapore 2015).
They have yet to win the Under-23 football gold medal.
This time they have come with a strong team, led by midfielder Xuan Truong Luyen, who plays for Gangwon FC in the Korean League.
Vietnam are in Group B with Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines and Timor Leste.
They will open their campaign against Timor Leste at the Selayang MC Stadium on Tuesday. Hosts Malaysia are in Group A with Laos, Brunei, Singapore and Myanmar.
Defending champions Thailand and Vietnam are strong contenders to qualify for the semi-finals from Group B.