HANOI • Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo knows that the only way to win an intense football match is to be more clinical in front of goal than the opponents.
Ahead of last night's 2-1 Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup win over the Philippines that set up a final with Malaysia, he told his men to rewatch their 2-1 first-leg win to prepare for the game.
"We missed several chances in that match. We have to fix that," the South Korean said during his press conference on Wednesday, as reported by Vietnam News.
His strategy worked. Vietnam never gave up the hard-fought battle in front of 40,000 fans at the My Dinh National Stadium and scored in quick succession through forwards Nguyen Quang Hai and Nguyen Cong Phuong in the last 10 minutes.
The aggregate scoreline was an impressive 4-2 against the physically stronger Azkals, who netted a consolation goal through midfielder James Younghusband.
Under former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, they rarely looked like overturning the deficit from the first leg and fell at the semi-final stage for the fourth time in the last five editions.
A draw yesterday was sufficient to take Vietnam through following their win in Bacolod.
But they knew that they could not leave their place in the final to chance. Four years ago, they beat Malaysia 2-1 in the first leg of the semi-finals in Kuala Lumpur but lost 4-2 in Hanoi.
Thankfully for Park and his men, there was no repeat yesterday.
Vietnam, the 2008 champions, will now be favourites in the two-legged final, having beaten 2010 winners Malaysia 2-0 at home in the group stage last month. The first leg is in Kuala Lumpur next Tuesday and the return leg four days later.
Malaysia drew 2-2 with holders Thailand a day earlier and went through on the away-goals rule despite a 0-0 draw in Kuala Lumpur.
Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Hamidin Amin issued a reminder to the Harimau Malaya squad that their job is not done despite the surprise result in Bangkok.
"There's one more hurdle to cross, two more matches to be played, so stay focused and give it your best," he said on the official FAM Facebook page.
He also thanked the Malaysian supporters who were present at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok on Wednesday night to show their support to the team.
Thailand coach Milovan Rajevac has wished the Malaysians well despite the defeat. "Of course, I'm not satisfied since we didn't qualify for the final but it's another experience for the players," he said on the tournament's official website.
"I want to congratulate the Malaysian team. They deserve to play in the final."