Vietnamese footballers must play smart at SEA Games

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 Vietnam U23 footballers Long Giang (L) and Trong Hoang (R) practice in Hanoi on October 13.

The draw for the 26th South East Asian Games went well enough for Vietnam's Under-23 footballers but critics say precaution is necessary.

The Wednesday draw placed Vietnam in Group B with U23 teams from Myanmar, Laos, Brunei, East Timor and the Philippines, while Group A consists of hosts Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and hosts Indonesia.

"We dare not say that we can heave a sigh of relief," said Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) Chairman Nguyen Trong Hy, "but I feel it is a bit easier than I expected because Vietnam is in Group B while strong teams like defending champs Malaysia and arch rivals Thailand are in Group A."

"Also, we don't have to clash with hosts Indonesia in the group stage. Our group consists of six teams [Group A consists of five teams], but the competition is not too strong for us. We know more or less about their strengths and weaknesses.

"We have clashed with them several times and we have come out the winners most of the time. Among Group B, East Timor is perhaps the weakest team.

"Brunei is not a strong team. We will encounter Myanmar again [Vietnam's U23s beat Myanmar 5-0 in the opener of the VFF Cup in Hanoi on Wednesday October 19]. We understand Myanmar pretty well. It is an advantage."

Hy said Laos's U23s were coached by Austrian coach Alfred Riedl, the former coach of Vietnam's national team. Hy said the Laos squad had improved a lot and made their way to the semifinals at the 25th SEA Games in 2009.

"The Filipino team is not well known," said Hy. "I think Vietnam and the Philippines or Myanmar will advance to the semifinals.

MEN'S FUTSAL

Vietnam in Group A with Indonesia and the Philippines (Group B consists of Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar). Women's Futsal contest will see five teams from Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines and hosts Indonesia playing a round robin to choose the champs.

Speaking from Indonesia, VFF general secretary Tran Quoc Tuan said the draw result looked good for Vietnam. "But we don't want the players to look down on any teams"¦ No team is too weak at the SEA Games and it will be hard for us to take wins if we don't have the best preparations and plans."

Lam Quang Thanh, Vietnam's sports manager at the regional Games next month, said that in theory, Vietnam was in an easy group. "But it's impossible to say anything in advance."

Meanwhile the Vietnamese U23 team received the news about the draw with hope and precaution. Coach Falko Goetz said that neither group would be easy. "But I believe in my players. They are full of excitement and determination."

"If it is easy in the group stage, it will be harder later. If we face not very strong rivals in the group stage, we will have to clash with very strong rivals in the semis. I hope Vietnam will advance to the final match and do something miraculous."

Vietnam's U23 team captain Pham Thanh Luong agreed. "Both groups contain strong teams; and in football, a weaker team may do surprising things because they are under no pressure, while seeded teams are under lots of pressure," he said.

"Nobody dares to predict that the match against East Timor will be easier than matches against other stronger teams. Vietnamese U23s must win all the games before winning the championship."

FIXTURES FOR MEN'S FOOTBALL AT
THE 26TH SOUTH EAST ASIAN GAMES

Group A (five teams playing at Bung Karno Stadium from November 9)

Date

Match

Time 

Nov 9

Singapore- Malaysia

Indonesia- Cambodia

16:00

19:00

Nov 11

Malaysia- Thailand

Cambodia - Singapore

16:00

19:00

Nov 13

Thailand - Cambodia

Singapore- Indonesia

16:00

19:00

Nov 15

Malaysia- Cambodia

Indonesia- Thailand

16:00

19:00

Nov 17

Thailand -Singapore

Malaysia-Indonesia

16:00

19:00

Group B (6 teams playing from November 3 at Bung Karno Stadium for the first three rounds on Nov.3-5-7 and at Lebak Bulus Stadium (5 for the next five rounds on Nov. 9-11-13-15 and 17).

Date

Match

Time 

Nov 3

  Vietnam-Philippines

Laos- Myanmar

16:00

19:00

Nov 5

Brunei- East Timor

Vietnam -Myanmar

16:00

19:00

Nov 7

East Timor-Philippines

Laos - Brunei

16:00

19:00

Nov 9

Myanmar- Brunei

Vietnam - East Timor

16:00

19:00

Nov 11

Philippines- Laos

Vietnam - Brunei

16:00

19:00

Nov 13

Philippines- Myanmar

East  Timor- Laos

16:00

19:00

Nov 15

Myanmar- East Timor

Philippines- Brunei

16:00

19:00

Nov 17

Vietnam - Laos

16:00

Semifinal matches on Nov 19 while final and third place playoff on Nov 21 at Bung Karno Stadium

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