U23 striker Nguyen Cong Phuong runs a ball during a match between Vietnam and East Timor in the Asian Championship qualifiers. Phuong is one of the key players of Vietnam to compete in the upcoming SEA Games in Malaysia. (Source: vnexpress.net)
 
Hanoi (VNA) - Following the successful completion of the Asian U23 Championship Qualifiers, Coach Nguyen Huu Thang said it was time to focus on the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
 
Under Thang’s guidance, Vietnam booked a slot in the final round of the U23 event, which will be organised next January in China.
 

The former national defender said he was satisfied with his team’s performance. The players put in their best with great enthusiasm and determination. The result will be a strong driver for them to perform at the SEA Games this August in Malaysia.

“We are heading to SEA Games, where they will have to try harder,” said Thang to reporters after the last match of Group I at the HCM City’s Thong Nhat Stadium on July 23.

“We have learnt a lot from the Asian tournament. We will need to fix some problems. I have to talk with my players about their mistakes and bad situations (that caused goal losses at the Asian event), and I may change some positions too.

“My team played very well, and I believe that they could be better at the SEA Games,” he said.

After the draw that was held on July 23 in Malaysia, Vietnam who were reported to be the most impressive of the dozen Southeast Asian nations by foxsportsasia.com, will play East Timor in their first Group B match of the SEA Games on August 15.

They will then face Cambodia (August 17), the Philippines (August 20), Indonesia (August 22) and defending champions Thailand (August 24).

The two best teams from each group will advance to the semi-finals on August 26. The final and third-placed play-off matches are scheduled to be held three days later.

Vietnam who have never won a SEA Games title has set a target of being one of the two finalists at this year’s games.

“Winning the SEA Games trophy is a dream for more than 90 million citizens of Vietnam. However, it is not easy. We will have to work on each game, one by one. However, apart from our effort, we will also need a little luck from the Gods,” Thang said.

During their annual meet on July 23 in HCM City, VFF leaders confirmed that they would focus 100 percent on supporting the team in the SEA Games.

VFF Vice President Nguyen Xuan Gu said the federation’s leaders would be with the squad in Malaysia. "It is to help them to at least reach the target. After achieving the target, the team must try to win the gold medal. It is an order," he said.

On July 23, the organisers also released the time table for the women’s event, where the teams will compete in a round-robin format.

Former champions Vietnam will face the Philippines on August 17, then Myanmar three days later, Thailand on August 22 and Malaysia on August 24.

In another development, the Philippines announced their withdrawal from hosting the 30th Games in 2019. The Philippines had got the right to host the event after Brunei’s retreat. However, the regional sporting festival was again dropped because of the Marawi conflict.

The Philippines Sport Commission (PSC) released a letter on July 21 saying that “due to the current situation in Mindanao, and the problem of terrorism and atrocities, we regret to inform you that we will no longer be able to host the biennial event.”

The PSC has promised to host sporting events again “when all is clear, and peace and order has improved after the 2020 Olympics and in the future.”-VNA