FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan takes a closer look at Vietnam’s 2-0 win over Malaysia in Friday’s AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 Group A clash.
Having had a bye in the last round of AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 matches, Vietnam showed no signs of rust as they picked up their second win in Group A on Friday with a comfortable 2-0 win over Malaysia at the My Dinh National Stadium.
Nguyen Cong Phuong got the hosts on their way with a clever flick past Khairul Fahmi after 11 minutes, before Nguyen Anh Duc sealed the win with a clinical finish into the bottom corner on the hour mark.
Here, FOX Sports Asia picks out the five biggest lessons from what could prove to be a crucial Group A clash.
1) Cong Phuong and Xuan Truong rise to the occasion
With experience playing in Japan and Korea Republic respectively, Nguyen Cong Phuong and Luong Xuan Truong have long been regarded as two of Vietnam’s brightest prospects but have – at times – failed to live up to expectations on the big stage.
However, things look to be changing based on their displays thus far at the tournament.
Xuan Truong has orchestrated proceedings for Vietnam brilliantly from the middle of the park, while Cong Phuong has also shone playing as a wide attacker and already has two goals in as many matches.
2) Malaysia need more from Sumareh
Having been a real standout in the Malaysia Super League for a few seasons now, it was no surprise to see Mohamadou Sumareh gaining citizenship and being called up to the national team.
His talent is obvious but, for now, the 24-year-old has yet to fully showcase his abilities at the Suzuki Cup.
With Malaysia clearly lacking a traditional central playmaker, the creativity may have to come from the wings and coach Tan Cheng Hoe will surely be looking for more from Sumareh and Akhyar Rashid against Myanmar.
3) Anh Duc is a perfect fit for Park Hang-seo
A towering target man may not be the most common sight in Southeast Asian football, which may have been the reason why Nguyen Anh Duc – at 33 – has less than 30 caps to his name.
But having seen Kim Shin-wook line up for Korea Republic at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it is perhaps no surprise that Vietnam’s South Korean coach Park Hang-seo has a bit of a liking for Anh Duc.
And rather than just look to try and bully opposition defenders into submission with his sheer physicality, Anh Duc actually contributes when the ball hits the ground and has showed a real striker’s instinct with his two goals against Laos and Malaysia.
4) A distinct imbalance hampering Harimau Malaya
Plenty has been made about the lack of a No. 10 in the Malaysia squad and, while they got away with it against Cambodia and Laos, it came back to haunt them against the Vietnamese.
Defensively, the Malaysia fans can have few complains and the likes of Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Zaquan Adha know their way to the back of the net.
However, when Norshahrul has to drop deep to initiate attacks and then try to race back into the box in time to finish off the chances, then Harimau Malaya face an uphill task to net a winning score, especially against the stronger sides in the region
5) Vietnam know how to win ugly
There has never been any doubts over Vietnam’s ability to play an entertaining brand of attacking football, but they did show a touch of naivety in the past two tournaments when they were arguably one of the best teams but were eliminated in the semi-finals against savvier opposition.
This year, that does not seem to be the case as they are displaying the experience and know-how to grind out results even when they do not hit top form.
Perhaps it has come from the Under-23s’ recent experiences as they finished runners-up at the AFC U-23 Championship, and then finished fourth at the Asian Games.
This big-tournament experience could just prove crucial as Vietnam look to win only their second Suzuki Cup following their maiden triumph in 2008.