Coach Park answered questions from VnExpress readers in Vietnam and overseas after the U23 Vietnam team returned to the country from the Asian Games 2018.
U23 Vietnam made history by entering the semifinal of Asiad for the first time, but lost in the semifinal and failed to win the bronze medal in the last match.
How did you sleep last night? We saw a picture of you sleeping on the plane? (Hien Danh, 36, Australia)
I slept very well last night. I always feel a lot of tension before each match. Yesterday, on the flight from Jakarta, I had to get up early plus I had a cold from the day before. So I was exhausted.
Coach Park Hang-seo is seen sleeping on the flight from Jakarta to Hanoi after leading the U23 Vietnam to the fourth place at the Asian Games 2018. Photo by VnExpress
How did you prepare for the match with the United Arab Emirates? How different was the match from your preparations? (Thanh Tam, 34, Thanh Hoa Province, central Vietnam)
My assistants and I always strive to prepare the best for each match. That’s our job. We evaluate the possibilities and come up with plans. The match may or may not turn out the way we expect. There are variables that we just cannot predetermine.
One of our major losses was defender Dinh Trong, who was unable to play because of an injury. Trong did well in training the day before. But close to the match, he got an injury in his tendon and the doctors advised that he be benched.
Looking back, we did strive to win in 90 minutes, but we conceded too early. Our players followed the exact instructions they were given.
U23 Vietnam (in red) was defeated by U23 United Arab Emirates in the penalty shootout on September 1, 2018. Photo by VnExpress
Did you focus on winning in the 90 minutes and fail to prepare for the penalty shootout? (Hang, 40, Hanoi)
We started practicing for the penalty shootout when we got into the round of 16. Every team practiced, including Vietnam, and all the reporters saw we practiced.
The problem was that UAE took excellent penalty shots. Vietnam was not lucky. Penalty shootouts always bring heavy pressure on the players. Even the most famous players in the world have failed.
There were moments during matches when you bowed your head with your eyes closed. Some say you were nervous and did not dare to look at what was happening on the field. What did you do at those moments? (Thanh Tam, 34, Thanh Hoa Province)
Coach Park Hang-seo often bows his head down in football matches. Photo by VnExpress
After losing to UAE, you sat alone on the bench. What were you thinking? (Dung, 68, Hanoi)
There was no limit to our ambitions. After making it through the group stage, we strived to enter the quarterfinals, then the semifinals. Our goal was always to enter the final. Even after losing in the semifinal, we wanted to win the bronze medal.
I felt empty and sad because we couldn’t win the bronze medal. A part of me was regretful.
Looking back, I don’t know if I pushed the players too hard to win the bronze medal for the fans back home. I don’t know if I caused them too much tension since their performance in that match was not what I expected.
Coach Park Hang-seo is seen sitting alone after U23 Vietnam failed to win the bronze medal in the match with U23 United Arab Emirates on September 1, 2018. Photo by VnExpress
What kind of pressure did you go through in the semifinal against South Korea? (Minh Mang, 27, Hue, central Vietnam)
My exposure to the media was with the consent of the federation. My interviews to the Korean press were all accepted by the federation. I do not arbitrarily do interviews. When I knew we would play the semifinal against South Korea, I did not answer questions from the Korean press any more.
We have pressure in every match. The South Korean team has a powerful attack. Our task is to do what it takes to limit their strength, that’s the important thing.
When you prepared for the flag hoisting, many South Korean reporters pointed their cameras at you. How were you feeling at that moment? (Dung Truong, 30, HCMC)
I am a Korean citizen and I love my country. The way I show love for the Korean national anthem is normal. Perhaps the reporters paid too much attention to me. Personally, I don’t think that’s something special.”
Coach Park Hang-seo is interviewed by Vietnamese and Korean media in a training. Photo by VnExpress
When Vietnam was losing the match, many Vietnamese fans were surprised that you smiled. What do you have to say about that? (Vu Phong, 40, the central city of Da Nang)
Khoa, who is interpreting for me now, knows how well-prepared we were for the semi-finals. In the match against Korea, the biggest problem was time. We knew that the longer the game lasted, the more impatient the Korean players would be.
However, the Vietnamese players deployed an unprecedented strategy. I don’t know if it was because our players were a bit afraid of playing such a big opponent. We conceded a goal right at the start of the game. That made the players lose even more confidence.
At that point, I turned around and told the assistants that our plans were not going well. I didn’t know why I smiled at that time. I hope no one is too harsh about my actions. That was probably a time when I felt helpless. Surely we can all understand that when the team loses the coach could never smile.”
Vietnam’s midfielder Xuan Manh (in red) trying to get the ball from a Korean player. Photo by VnExpress
You rubbed the head of Korean forward Son Heung-min during the match. What was the meaning of that action? (Hien Dung Nguyen, 19, Helsinki, Finland)
The ball was out at that moment and I was giving instructions in Korean. But when I looked around I saw Son was listening. Son was our opponent in the match, so his action was unusual.
Son is a famous player who has competed in international tournaments, but he is also a brother of mine in the Korean national team. I rubbed his head as a way of saying hello.
Son Heung-min is the captain of U23 South Korea in the Asian Games 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong
U23 Vietnam has never beaten U23 Japan until this tournament. What do you think about this historic victory? (Doan Thang, 60, Hanoi)
I always tell the players to play the best they can when they are on the field, whoever the opponent is. I told them to strive for the best results even if the opponent was Japan.
Even though we had already won two games in the group stage, we wanted to beat Japan. I told the players that we have never beaten Japan before, so we need to overcome this challenge so that the next generations can feel more relaxed when playing Japan.
U23 Vietnam beat U23 Japan (in blue) for the first time in history in the Asian Games 2018. Photo by VnExpress
Historically the Vietnamese football team has been divided into groups. This seems not to be the case with this team. How did you help the players stay united? (Viet Chung, 34, Hanoi)
I have never heard about divisions in the Vietnam team before. In Korea, a small number of players are divided, and it might be the same in Vietnam. I do not tolerate divisions. It is unacceptable to have players take sides in the team. One of my key criteria in selecting players is that he needs to be able to get along well with other players and have good communication skills on top of his ability to play football.
I always observe a player in training to see how well he is getting along with other players. As long as I’m the coach of the Vietnam team, divisions will not be tolerated.
I want to emphasize that my football philosophy is not based on any particular player. We cannot have one or a few players leading the team. All players must play as a team, and they need to work together toward a common goal. That’s what I strive for. I repeat, I won’t allow division in my team.
Coach Park Hang-seo watching Vietnamese players swim to relax ahead of the match with U23 United Arab Emirates. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong
What goals have you set for the next tournament, the 2018 AFF Cup in November? (Huong Ponitz, 55, Munich, Germany)
October 25 will mark one year of my job as the head coach of the Vietnam national team. The AFF Suzuki Cup is a very important tournament. On November 11 we will play the first match. We always consider every match a final so that the Vietnamese fans won’t be disappointed. We strive to achieve the best result so that there will be no regrets afterward.
Concerning specific goals for that tournament, the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) will surely speak to me soon. So maybe this question should be directed to them. They are my employers, and all employers want the best results.
Coach Park Hang-seo sharing a drink with a Vietnamese footballer while waiting to board the plane from Jakarta to Hanoi on September 2, 2018. Photo by VnExpress
In less than a year you have become a hero in Vietnam and a famous person in Korea. How did that change your life? (Dinh Thanh An, 47, HCMC)
I’m just a football coach. I don’t consider myself your hero. I work with assistants and players. We can be proud of what we have achieved so far. But we understand that the fans’ expectations will be higher from now on. We have to accept that.
Their expectations will remind us of the goals we have set out initially. I think we have a responsibility to meet their expectations.
Despite losing to Korea in the semifinal and failing to win the bronze medal in the match with the UAE Saturday, coach Park Hang-seo and the Vietnamese players were welcomed back as heroes Sunday.
The AFF Suzuki Cup will be held from November 8 to December 15, this year.
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