Vietnamese soccer hero coach Park Hang-seo’s ‘Last Dance’ opponent has been decided. In the final match of the Southeast Asian Football Federation (AFF) Mitsubishi Cup, Park will face off against defending champion Thailand.
Coach Park ends his 5-year partnership with Vietnam with this tournament. In that sense, Thailand is the best opponent. Of course, director Kim Pan-gon’s Malaysia would have had a warmer atmosphere, but there is a high possibility that the tension would have been much less. It is because Malaysia is still weak compared to Vietnam. But Thailand is different.
Thailand and Vietnam are rivals. Before coach Park took office, the strongest player in Southeast Asian football was Thailand. It can be said that Vietnam has seized the hegemony of Southeast Asian football only after Park took office. In that sense, coach Park has no choice but to be uncomfortable in Thailand. Also, from Park’s point of view, it is all the same that Thailand is uncomfortable.
Thailand, led by coach Alexandre Polking, is the country that has won the most Mitsubishi Cups. In 1996, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2016, and 2020안전놀이터, he lifted the championship cup six times. Vietnam has only won twice in its career. Thailand is facing this tournament as the defending champion. Here, director Park has been caught in Thailand. Vietnam, who won the 2018 Suzuki Cup (predecessor of the Mitsubishi Cup), met and lost to Thailand in the semifinals in 2020, when it was trying for a second straight title. At that time, Vietnam lost 0-2 at home and drew 0-0 on the road and was eliminated in the semifinals.
However, from Thailand’s point of view, Vietnam is by no means an easy opponent. It is because it is coach Park’s Vietnam that stopped the Mitsubishi Cup from winning three consecutive championships four years ago, which could have remained a legend in Southeast Asian football. In 2018, Thailand had to give up the championship cup to Vietnam after being pushed by coach Park, who appeared like a comet at the time. The current FIFA ranking also ranks Vietnam at 96th, much higher than Thailand (111th).
There is also a competition for the top scorer here. The current top scorer ranking is Thailand’s Tirasil Dangda (6 goals). Tirasil Dangda, who scored the 6th goal of the tournament in the semifinals, surpassed Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Linh (5 goals), who was tied for first place, and rose to the top of the tournament’s scoring rankings alone. The battle of pride between strikers from both countries over the top scorer is hot.
The playstyles of the two teams are opposite. Thailand’s strength is its firepower. Thailand, who scored 13 goals, the most among participating teams in the group stage, scored 3 goals against Malaysia in the semifinals as well. On the other hand, Vietnam is the only team without a goal in this tournament. A higher level of defensive organization is a strength.
Vietnam and Thailand will play the first leg of the final at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, Vietnam at 9:30 pm on the 13th (Korean time). The second game will be played at Thammasat Stadium in Pathum Thani, Thailand on the 16th, three days later, to determine the final champion.
Meanwhile, coach Kim Pan-gon’s Malaysia was unfortunately eliminated in the semifinals by Thailand. The enthusiastic cheering of the Thai audience and the combination of Boonmatan and Dangda failed to overcome the wall. They won the first leg at home 1-0, but lost the second leg 0-3 and fell behind on goal difference. However, Malaysia was the team that was eliminated in the group stage of the previous tournament. Coach Kim completed his successful Southeast Asian debut by taking his team to the semifinals.