AFF Suzuki Cup 2018: Youth our strength

Vietnam head coach Park Hang-seo believes it is the Golden Dragons’ young stars who will be their greatest strength as they prepare to face Malaysia in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup final at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

Vietnam has the third-youngest squad in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 with an average age of 23.69 years — only behind Timor-Leste (20.56 yers) and Laos (21.34 years). Meanwhile, their opponents Malaysia have a squad with an average of 25.17 years — the fourth-oldest in the tournament.

“Our biggest strength in the tournament is that we have a lot of young players which means that they are highly energetic,” said Vietnam gaffer Park speaking at the pre-match press conference ahead of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 final.

Vietnam boasts of a very young squad that can form the backbone for the country’s national team for years to come. Team’s creative spark Nguyen Quang Hai who is aged 21, defensive rock Tran Dinh Trong also of the same age, and Do Duyh Manh who is 22 years old have all played key roles in them reaching the final of the competition.

However, the South Korean coach is also aware of the danger a lack of experience can bring. “They may lack in experience, but we have talked a lot about this in team meeting. And we will try to find a way to strengthen our side even more,” said Park on the eve of the final’s first leg.

Talking about the match itself, the 59-year-old said the Bukit Jalil National Stadium will throw up a spectacle on Tuesday. “We have a special match awaiting us in Kuala Lumpur. I feel the burden and pressure because it is a final. But we need to focus and prepare well for it,” he said.

“Its an away game. This is a huge stadium that can fit 80,ooo people. It will be a huge crowd, but we have prepared well in training and I have asked my players to stay calm. Communication will be tricky because the stadium will be loud. But we will use memos and other means to pass on messages. I don’t expect it to be a problem though,” he said.

Vietnam and Malaysia have already faced each other once in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 with the Golden Dragons coming out on top with a 2-0 victory in the group stage match. But, Park expects the game to be a completely different one when the two teams go head-to-head again.

“The Malaysian squad and the coach (Tang Cheng Hoe) are the same. And we did beat them in the group stage. But Malaysia will be different in the final. They would have prepared well to identify our weaknesses. But we have prepared well to cope with that as well. In my opinion, Malaysia has the best set of attackers at the AFF Suzuki Cup this year,” he commented.

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