Speaking at a press conference ahead of the group stage of the biennial soccer tournament in Singapore, Coach Park Hang Seo acknowledged the pressure the Vietnamese side faces in defending the champions.

The fact that Coach Park Hang Seo and his team are highly regarded in the tournament is not surprising given the team’s stability, performance and position in the FIFA rankings. Vietnam has also been able to achieve top-notch results, winning the 2018 Suzuki Cup, and many believe South Korean manager Park Hang-seo has taken senior and under-23 teams to a new level since taking power in 2017.

Vietnam will play to become only the third team in the 25-year history of the AFF Suzuki Cups to win consecutive titles in the upcoming tournament, which were previously secured by Thailand (2000-02, 2014-16) and Singapore (2004-07).

For this Suzuki Cup, Vietnam will be in Group B where they will play Laos (Monday), Malaysia (December 12), Indonesia (December 15) and Cambodia (December 19) at Bishan Stadium. In the group stage, the 10 participating teams will play in an Italian-style tournament to determine the top two teams in each group to advance to the home and away semi-finals.

Defending champions Vietnam proved hopeless against Indonesia as the two teams tied with no goals in a group B match of the postponed 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup at Bishan Stadium in Singapore on Wednesday night (December 15).

As one of the growing economies in Asia, Vietnam is expected to grow further and football is also becoming more popular. Even in smaller tournaments, Vietnamese fans are also known for big celebrations, such as when Vietnam won the AFF 2008, 2018 and AFC U-23 championships in 2018, in which their team finished second after losing the final against Uzbekistan.

Park said: “Vietnamese players have their own unique special qualities in terms of pace, strength and technique that I do not see in Japanese or South Korean players.

Ranked 99th now, they are the only Asean team in the top 100 and the third round of the World Cup qualifiers. While they have lost all their matches against Saudi Arabia, Japan, Australia, Oman and China, they proved hard to beat and never lost by more than two goals.