Hurdles await U23 Vietnam in clash with RoK hinh anh 1Gong Oh-kyun, U23 Vietnam's head coach, in his first post-match press conference. (Photo: VNA)
Tashkent (VNS/VNA) - After the unfortunate draw against archrivals Thailand on June 2, an all-new Vietnam must get ready to meet defending champions the Republic of Korea at the Asian U23 Football Championship on June 5 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

The reign of Gong Oh-kyun started with a surprising display of attacking football and modern gegenpressing tactics. The “Golden Star Warriors” were never on the back foot in their match against Thailand.

Both goals by Phan Tuan Tai and Nguyen Van Tung originated from great pressing and open play, rather than solo dribbles and set pieces like the senior Vietnam side.

However, Gong's youngsters lacked the composure and stamina needed for a modern pressing game. Most notably in the second half, many players went down with injuries and all five substitutions were used up before the 65th minute.

And it was these pivotal points that led to Suphanat Mueanta sneaking his way past Vietnam's defence to score the late equaliser for the Thais when the game seemed to be in Vietnam's bag.

Despite the disappointing draw, coach Gong still sang praises of his players.

"My players played like warriors. They tried their hardest and that is for me the most important thing," said Gong. 

"Some players have health problems pre-match, but the replacements still did their job well.

"These are new and young players. They are eager to prove themselves, even the ones who are injured early. I am grateful for their efforts," said the Korean coach.

Vietnam's injury list now includes No 1 keeper Nguyen Van Toan, Tran Danh Trung, Nguyen Van Truong, and Le Minh Binh on top of Nguyen Thanh Binh and Ly Cong Hoang Anh who had food poisoning before the June 2 match.

The RoK on the other hand have shown class and proved why they are the defending champions. Hwang Sun-hong, a former player under Park Hang-seo during his time with the RoK national team, is currently the manager of the team.

Hwang's squad includes Lee Kang-in, the 2019 FIFA U20 World Cup Golden Ball winner, as well as Hong Hyun-seok and Jeong Sang-bin, who play top-flight football in Europe.

But it is not the individuals of the young Taeguk Warriors that are worrisome, but rather their clinical style of play.

In their match against Malaysia on June 2, coach Hwang's men exploited Harimau Malaya's mistakes in defence and punished them heavily, most notably in the last two minutes of the game when Malaysia's stamina deteriorated, and they ended the game with an emphatic 4-1 win.

Gong, however, is still positive about Vietnam's chances to progress further.

"We have two more matches and my team is fully prepared. The newly injured players might not start, but Hoang Anh and Thanh Binh will return.

"I only focus on how my team will play, and because of that, I don't find the need to adapt to the opponent's play.

"Although I am a Korean, my job is with Vietnam and I am fully committed," said Gong./.