Vietnam crowned Southeast Asia’s best, Malaysia defy expectations

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Ten years after winning their first AFF Suzuki Cup, Vietnam won a second on Saturday, turning the streets of Hanoi and Saigon red with delight as fans celebrated 3-2 aggregate victory over Malaysia.

In the end, Vietnam were just a little too good for their regional rivals over the two legs. And the same was true in the tournament overall. The Golden Stars were consistently the best team from the beginning — a 3-0 win over Laos — to the end, a 1-0 second leg victory over Malaysia.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Vietnam had stars such as Nguyen Quang Hai, the best player at the tournament, and capable of pulling the strings in attack at the tender age of 21. They had goalscorers, like Nguyen Anh Duc, whose early second leg volley in Hanoi did so much to deflate Malaysian hopes. After that it was always going to be be hard going. Vietnam also had the best defence in Southeast Asia with just four goals conceded in eight games, and the mighty Moscow-born Dang Van Lam in between the sticks.9

Most important of all, the tournament champions had Park Hang-seo on the sidelines — or “The Korean Hiddink.” After taking over the team in 2017, the South Korean has made what has always been a talented team harder to beat. His brand of counter-attacking football, balanced with a fitter and stronger team of players has worked. It is no surprise that he has reached hero status in the country and a documentary on his life that was released into nationwide theatres last week is going to be playing for some time to come.

It is the way it happened that really impressed however. Under Cheng Hoe, the team is attack-minded and aggressive. There is a defensive core set up with the central pairing working together well for the most part, flanked by exciting full-backs. Holding midfielders have performed with energy and intelligence with speedy and skilful wingers ready to run at defenders and get behind backlines. It has been exciting to watch.

And the nation has been excited and has put aside its recent frostiness to embrace the team with warmth, affection and passion. The nights at the Bukit Jalil with numerous attendances of over 80,000 with an atmosphere off the scale will be the enduring image of the tournament for many.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

For Malaysia, the challenge is to keep this fire burning, to allow it to grow and fuel a sustained rise to the top of Southeast Asian football. There is still much to be done but the start has been impressive and magnificent to watch.