Vietnam atop Group A at U21 football tourney

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Vietnam finished on top of Group A after beating Thailand 2-0 in their final group stage match Wednesday at the Under-21 International Football Tournament in Gia Lai Province's Pleiku Town.

Dinh Bao and Hoang Thinh scored goals in the first and second half of the match respectively take Vietnam to the semifinals of the 6th edition of contest sponsored by the Thanh Nien newspaper.

The event has six teams from Malaysia, Laos, Australia, Singapore and Thailand who compete with hosts Vietnam in a round-robin format in two groups.

In the opener of Group A, Vietnam beat Singapore 6-1, and then Thailand and Singapore played a goalless draw in the second game. Therefore, all Thailand needed for a semifinal berth was to make sure they did not lose to Vietnam by a margin of more than 6 goals.

With a semifinal berth guaranteed, less than half the squad that had beaten Singapore was fielded in the game against Thailand, but the hosts still looked the stronger team. It seemed that Thailand was looking for a tie, rather than play attacking football. Their defence held strong until the final minute of the first half when Dinh Bao converted a chance from a free kick to score his fifth goal in two games.

The Thai team put on a more attacking show in the second half, but there was no let up in pressure from the hosts. Midway through the second half, a handball by Pinphong earned Vietnam a penalty kick and Hoang Thinh made no mistake.

For their achievement in topping the group, the Vietnamese team received a reward of VND100 million (US$4,800) from the Vietnam Football Federation and VND30 million from DP Design & Consulting JSC.

In Group B, Malaysia beat Sydney FC 4-2 to finish on top with two wins, followed by the Australian team who had beaten Laos 2-1 in their earlier game.

In the semifinals, Vietnam will face Sydney FC and Malaysia will fight Thailand.

Vietnam's coach Dinh Van Dung said, "It will be difficult because Sydney FC is a professional squad and coach Brian Dene still has something up his sleeve.

Thai coach Sarawut Treephan said he has studied his team's semifinal opponents very carefully in preparing for the semifinals and that they would cause "certain difficulties" for the Malaysians.

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