31st Sea Games - Vietnam 2021 Covid-19 Pandemic
Feb 27, 2022 / 00:37

Vietnam crowned AFF U23 Champions

Vietnam were ravaged by Covid-19 with 24 out of 27 players infected and supplemented by 10 from home who reached the venues few hours before the games started.

Vietnam beat Thailand 1-0 after 90 minutes of resilience, closing a very memorable journey at the AFF U23 Championship with gold medals.

  Vietnam win first-ever AFF U23 Championship. Photos: VFF

“The Vietnamese’s achievement was all the more impressive given they entered the competition with one eye on the future and only boasted one player above the age of 21 in their squad,” Gabriel Tan of ESPN said.

Tran Bao Toan’s looping header bulged the net at the 45th minute from Pham Tuan Tai’s delivery, leaving goalkeeper Narongsak Nueangwonsa hopeless. The score was unchanged until the end of the match held on Feb 26 at Morodok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The War Elephants kept piling pressure on Vietnam’s backline in the last minutes in search of an equalizer, but the excellence of goalkeeper Dang Tuan Hung helped the Golden Star Warriors keep a clean sheet. The result sent Thailand to the runner-up of the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) U23 Championship for the second consecutive time.

Vietnam’s Commentator Hoang Hai said the Vietnam team won for coach Dinh The Nam’s proper tactics which formed a strong defense against Thais and the excellence of goalkeeper Dang Tuan Hung. “It’s been a long time Vietnamese players made such proud achievements and sent us to emotional moments,” he noted.

Four matches, nine goals, and no conceding, Vietnam closed the tournament with a head raised, including two victories over Thailand. The Golden Star Warriors achievement is even more impressive when 24 out of 27 players got infected with Covid-19. Before each game, Vietnam added some players who came on-road and set foot in Cambodia just few hours before the match started.

Although having 10 additional players twice, in the semi-finals, Vietnam had only 13 players to register and a reserve goalkeeper had to play as a striker, the first time in Vietnam’s football.

 Vietnam players celebrate the win on Feb 26. 

The victory won congratulations from State President Nguyen Xuan Phuc who said it becomes special as it proves the Vietnamese spirit, the spirit of never giving up despite Covid-19.

Congratulations and compliments have also come from Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh who named the result “proud”.

In the post-match speech, Tran Bao Toan, who is among 10 additional players, said the team was told by the coach of fighting for the national flag, local supporters, Covid-infected players, and Vietnamese people living and working in Cambodia who gave them care and support.

“I have to thank the players. They had a good game, full of courage, and were rewarded with a great result,” coach Dinh The Nam said in the post-match press conference, giving some good remarks for the Thai team.

Sharing post-match talks, Spanish coach Salva Valero Garcia of Thailand said “We fight with all we can. Therefore, we have no regrets when we lose to Vietnam. I congratulate Vietnam on this championship.”

On AFF’s Fanpage, Anusorn Chaiyapheaka from Thailand wrote “Congratulations Vietnam, you have done everything and rewarded.” Deth from Cambodia said “Congratulations Vietnam U23 team. You deserved the champions.”  

The third-place playoff was given to both Timor-Leste and Laos though the game was canceled due to Covid-19. Laos was unable to field sufficient players to attend the match.

 Two players of both teams in the final match.
 Vietnam's coach Dinh The Nam (3rd right) and managing board.