Facing their archrivals, the young Vietnamese players looked to bring home the title for the first time ever.
Both sides offered thrilling moments but failed to capitalize the chances.
Thailand’s Thanawut Phochai had a great run, but his finish hit the post in the 25th minute.
The young War Elephants escalated pressure in the latter part of the first half, forcing Vietnamese goalkeeper Tuan Hung to exert many saves.
The opener came for Vietnam in the first added minute of the half as Tran Bao Toan scored with a towering header so Thai keeper Narongsak Nueangwongsa could only watch the ball fly into the net.
With more confidence, the Vietnamese players scaled up offenses in the second half.
The junior Golden Stars almost doubled the lead in the 64th minute, but Nguyen Hoang’s finish went straight at Nueangwongsa.
|Tran Bao Toan heads home to earn Vietnam a decisive goal against Thailand in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) U23 Championship final in Cambodia, February 26, 2022. Photo: Hoang Tung / Tuoi Tre
It was Bao Toan again who almost earned Vietnam another goal from a corner five minutes later but the ball hit the bar.
Thailand spent the remainder of the second half and six added minutes seeking an equalizer, but they could not find a way through a die-hard Vietnamese side.
The referee blew the final whistle as Vietnam stepped up as the winners of the championship, following Thailand in 2005 and Indonesia in 2019.
Earlier, the tie between Laos and Timor-Leste for the third-place award was canceled shortly before its scheduled time on Saturday afternoon as COVID-19 infections caused the former to have an insufficient number of players for the game.
The AFF U23 Championship is an international football competition contested by the national under-23 teams of the member nations of the AFF, with the inaugural edition being held in 2005.
It had been interrupted since 2011 before reviving in 2019 as a preparatory tournament for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Ten teams had originally registered for this year’s edition before Indonesia and Myanmar backed out because of myriad COVID-19 infections on their squads.