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Coach admits he and team go into AFF Cup under pressure




Vietnamese team train for the opening match against Laos in the AFF Cup 2020 today. — Photo courtesy of the VFF

HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam attend the upcoming AFF Cup 2020 as the defending champions and coach Park Hang-seo admits that puts great pressure on both himself and his team.

“The Vietnamese team has just competed in six matches in the World Cup 2022 qualifying round and lost all six games,” said Park at an online press conference held in Singapore on Saturday. 

“This affected the team’s spirit. We also have a burden and pressure as the defending champion. Group B and Group A also have a lot of strong teams. The results are unpredictable, but we will try each match to get the best results.” 

However, the South Korean coach also believes there have been positives to take from the World Cup qualifiers, even though Việt Nam lost all six games. 

He believes that during the matches, his team never lost their fighting spirit, even though they were pitted against some of the best teams on the continent.

Việt Nam are in Group B of the AFF Cup 2020 alongside Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Laos. Group A consists of Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Timor Leste.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, hosts Singapore tightened safety regulations. 

Coach Park said that the Vietnamese team have been present in Singapore on December 1 and had three training sessions for the Cup.

At present, Việt Nam hasn’t had any injury concerns. A number of players returned after a period of rehabilitation such as midfielders Trần Đình Trọng and Trần Minh Vương. They were very energetic and completed the lesson plan in training sessions.

However, midfielder Đỗ Hùng Dũng missed the AFF Cup 2020 after the host country refused the procedure to apply for an entry permit to Singapore.

Earlier, the Việt Nam Football Federation (VFF) received an official document from the Singapore Football Federation announcing the case of Dũng. As a result, Dũng wasn’t allowed to enter Singapore to attend the AFF Cup 2020 with the Vietnamese team.

Dũng was called back to Việt Nam team and reunited with his teammates in Vũng Tàu on November 27. After that, the VFF registered Dũng on the official list of the Vietnamese team as stipulated by the AFF Cup’s organisers.

However, the time to make invitations for players to compete in the AFF Cup was until the end of November 24, while Dũng’s case wasn’t added until November 29. So the AFF Cup 2020’s organising board refused him permission to take part.

When asked if Dũng’s absence had any effect on the team, coach Park said: “We all know that Dũng has been out of the game for a long time due to his injury. The coaching staff wants Dũng to return to the team to regain his form. It’s really difficult to talk about his contribution.”

The Vietnamese team during the past have also trained without Dũng. Coach Park can also feel assured because of the very rapid progress of Nguyễn Hoàng Đức, in addition to the return of Nguyễn Tuấn Anh and Phạm Đức Huy.

Việt Nam will begin their journey to defend the AFF Cup championship with the opening match against Laos today.

“The first game is always stressful,” coach Park said.

“We were also troubled by the lack of information about the Lao team. We play in the context of COVID-19, so everything is very strictly controlled. The team only move within the range from the hotel to the training ground and the stadium. This also affects us mentally, but we have to adapt to this. We will try our best in the match against Laos.” 



Australia beat Thailand to set up quarter-final with South Korea at Women’s Asian Cup



Australia defeated Thailand 2-1 at the Women’s Asian Cup in Mumbai on Thursday to secure the top spot in Group B and set up a quarter-final clash with South Korea.

The Matildas finished the group stage with nine points, ahead of the Philippines, who ended on six points after thrashing Indonesia 6-0 in Pune.

Australia took the lead in the 39th minute after Emily van Egmond scored with a low drive from the edge of the box and all-time leading scorer Sam Kerr came off the bench to add the second goal in the 80th minute.

Thailand substitute Nipawan Panyosuk scored in stoppage time, lobbing the ball over keeper Lydia Williams with a stunning shot from distance.

Despite the defeat, Thailand advanced to the quarter-finals on account of finishing among the best third-placed teams alongside Vietnam.

Soccer Football - Women's Asian Cup - Group C - Japan v South Korea - Shivchatrapati Sports Complex, Pune, India - January 27, 2022 South Korea's Shim Seo-Yeon in action with Japan's Risa Shimizu. Photo: Reuters
Soccer Football – Women’s Asian Cup – Group C – Japan v South Korea – Shivchatrapati Sports Complex, Pune, India – January 27, 2022 South Korea’s Shim Seo-Yeon in action with Japan’s Risa Shimizu. Photo: Reuters

Thailand will face two-time defending champions Japan, who clinched the top spot in Group C on goal difference despite being held to a 1-1 draw by second-placed South Korea.

Forward Roki Ueki gave Japan the dream start with a goal in the first minute — the quickest at the competition — as she charged into the box and found the bottom left corner with a fine finish.

South Korea, putting up an improved performance in the second half, found a late equaliser through substitute Seo Ji-youn in the 85th minute after a scramble in the box.

Vietnam, who came from behind twice to hold Myanmar to a 2-2 draw in Navi Mumbai, will take on Group A winners China in the last eight. The Philippines will face Taiwan, who finished second in Group A.

Soccer Football - Women's Asian Cup - Group C - Japan v South Korea - Shivchatrapati Sports Complex, Pune, India - January 27, 2022 Japan's Yui Hasegawa in action. Photo: Reuters
Soccer Football – Women’s Asian Cup – Group C – Japan v South Korea – Shivchatrapati Sports Complex, Pune, India – January 27, 2022 Japan’s Yui Hasegawa in action. Photo: Reuters

Group A ended with only three teams with hosts India thrown out of the tournament after a COVID-19 outbreak meant they were unable to field a team for their match against Taiwan. 

The quarter-finals will be held on Sunday, followed by the semi-finals on Feb. 3 and the title clash on Feb. 6.

The competition is doubling up as Asia’s qualifier for next year’s Women’s World Cup, with the continent awarded five guaranteed spots at the finals in Australia and New Zealand.

Australia qualify for the World Cup as co-hosts while two other Asian nations will feature in an intercontinental playoff round.


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Age is just a number for Watford’s new boss




Roy Hodgson is, for the second time, the oldest manager in the Premier League. — Photo courtesy of Watford FC

Paul Kennedy

I’ve never been very good at dating apps. I guess it’s a generational thing.

I do know one thing for sure though; I’m not exactly a good catch. Very much the wrong side of 40, I drink and smoke far too much, work all the time, and the only thing I actually care about is Liverpool FC.

So if you’re looking for a keeper, and I’m not talking about the Alisson Becker variety, then I think swiping left is a better option.

I guess the reason I just don’t get the whole modern-day dating by app thing is my age. The days of meeting the future ex-Mrs Kennedy in a bar are long gone.

Nowadays, you can actually get to know potential suitors simply through endless conversations on apps like Zalo, long before you ever meet.

While I bemoan my hatred of dating apps because of my age, I tend to get the same reply over and over: “Age is just a number”.

And I guess that’s probably the case, but as I fast approach the big 5-0, I do start to look at things a little bit differently and wonder: “When does the time come to start to slow down?”

This week, Watford FC announced Roy Hodgson as their new manager. He is 74-years-old and his appointment makes him the oldest ever manager in the Premier League.

Previously, the oldest ever manager in the Premier League was, you’ve guessed it, Roy Hodgson when he managed Crystal Palace from 2017-21.

Roy clearly sees age as just a number.

In 1976, yeah, that long ago, he became manager of Halmsteds BK in Sweden, leading them to two league titles during a four-year spell in charge.

In the 42 years that followed, Roy has managed a staggering 20 teams, with Watford being his 21st managerial position.

So I don’t think there’s any doubt of his experience, but the big question Watford supporters will be asking themselves right now will be, is Roy over the hill?

Roy is Watford’s 15th manager in the past 20 years since the club was bought by Italian businessman Gino Pozzo in 2012.

I’ve no idea what reassurances Hodgson was given before he agreed to the job, but with a boss as trigger-happy as Pozzo seems to be, I do wonder how long he’ll last.

Throughout his extremely long career, Hodgson has never managed a team that has been relegated.

But with Watford currently sat second from bottom in the Premier League (their next game is against bottom club Burnley) saving the Hornets from relegation could be one of the veteran manager’s greatest ever achievements.

It’s not the time for Roy to be slowing down. He has a mammoth task on his hands over the next few months to save Watford from the drop. Sadly I fear in his case, age is a number, and he may have bitten off more than his dentures can chew. —



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Việt Nam advance to Asian Cup quarter-finals




Nguyễn Thị Tuyết Dung scores a super goal from a corner kick in a 2-2 draw between Việt Nam and Myanmar during the AFC Women’s Asian Cup on Thursday in India. — Photo

HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam came from behind to draw 2-2 against Myanmar and make history at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, India, on Thursday.

The draw gave Việt Nam one point and place third in Group C. For the first time, they advance to the Cup’s quarter-finals as one of two best third-placed teams.

Myanmar, needing a win to finish above Việt Nam, started the more aggressive of the two sides. They had their first threatening chance in the second minute after Tun Win Theingi’s threaded pass found Thaw Thaw, whose shot failed to trouble Việt Nam goalkeeper Trần Thị Kim Thanh.

The Southeast Asian champion Việt Nam came close to finding the net a minute later when Nguyễn Thị Mỹ Anh tried to test Myanmar goalie Nwe May Zin but her shot was denied by the crossbar.

Both two sides created opportunities with Nwe denying Vietnamese captain Huỳnh Như in the 13th, while Tun Win Theingi’s header from inside the box was cleared away two minutes later.

Việt Nam, who have not lost to Myanmar in their last 13 meets, conceded the first goal when Nguyễn Thị Thanh Nhã brought down an advancing Noe Khin Myat inside the box.

Tun Win Theingi made no mistake to open the scoring.

Việt Nam carried out more attacks and finally levelled the score just before the break.

Midfielder Nguyễn Thị Tuyết Dung repeated her amazing corner kick ability, which has made her famous all over the world, to beat Nwe.

Dung was highlighted in FIFA’s article with her superlative technique by finding the back of the net from corner kicks twice, one with her left, one with right, in a single match during the Southeast Asian championship in 2015.

Myanmar went ahead just four minutes into the second half after Như and Dung both missed chances.

Tun Win Theingi set up Tun Khin Marlar, who found space before smashing her effort into the back of the net.

Việt Nam were given a penalty after Myanmar’s Saw Thaw Thaw brought down Mỹ Anh inside the six-yard-box. And Như made no mistake from the penalty spot, sending Nwe the wrong way to level the tie for a second time. 

“We met a lot of difficulties prior to this match. We could not set up our domination against Myanmar. Myanmar are really different and tougher compared to the team we played in the past. They have well prepared for this tournament,” said Dung after the match.

“After conceding the first goal, we ask all members to play harder and push up the speed of the game. Luckily, I scored the levelling goal.

“Although we were left behind twice, we were still confident and we made it, levelling the result twice. We deserved to take the ticket to the knockout stage. We tried hard and I am proud of my teammates and happy to advance,” Dung said.

In the other match of Group C, Japan tied South Korea 1-1 to take the top place. South Korea are second. Both of them also qualify for the last-eight round.

Việt Nam will play China, Group A’s top team, on Sunday.

“China are on a different level with Việt Nam. But I think coach Mai Đức Chung will have a suitable tactic against them. The team might play in defence and open attacks when they have chances and try hard to save their net as well as possible,” said former national striker Nguyễn Thị Minh Nguyệt.

“However, I still believe in luck. You see, Việt Nam was faced with a risk of being ousted from the tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But finally, we make it and now advance to the next stage which was believed an impossible mission when the draw was conducted. The ball is round, and if it stands by our side, we may do something surprised on Sunday,” said Nguyệt. —


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