Posted January. 29, 2018 08:32,
Updated January. 29, 2018 09:04
“We did our best. Don’t be dispirited!” said Vietnam U23’s head coach Park Hang-seo, cheering up his young players after the team’s 1-2 defeat to Uzbekistan in the final match of the Asian Football Confederation U23 Championship held in Changzhou, China, on Friday. Players started to run around the stadium waving their national flags, and Vietnamese fans responded with big applause.
Park led Vietnam’s national football team, which only stands at 112th in FIFA rankings, to rise up to the final match and become the first Southeast Asian team to compete at the final, and is now hailed by the country as a “Vietnam’s football wizard.” Vietnamese media have taken note of Park’s leadership skills that boosted the national team’s competitiveness in a short period since October last year. “Park deeply motivated our players to become warriors,” said Vietnam News.
On the day of the final, massive red waves were seen around the streets in Hanoi, similar to the way Korean soccer fans “Red Devils” had participated in street cheering during the 2002 FIFA World Cup held in Korea and Japan. Vietnamese media outlets have reported that supporters have gathered at squares or playgrounds to watch the match through large screens, waving Vietnamese flags and the photos of Manager Park.
With the strong support of fans back home, players courageously fought against Uzbekistan even in the heavy snow and the cold weather of minus 9 degrees Celsius. Though Uzbekistan scored the first goal into 8 minutes of the first half of the game, Vietnam’s midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai was able to equalize from a free kick.
But Vietnam had to lose in overtime when Uzbekistan’s Andrey Sidorov struck the winning goal in the final minute.
“We’ve unfortunately missed a victory, so I’d like to apologize to fans who have supported us,” said Park. “Players gave it their best, and did the utmost to go beyond limits. They have given me a moment unforgettable in my life as a coach.”