Thailand were off to a brilliant start when they beat Asian powerhouse Japan in their first Group A game of the tournament at Buriram United’s I-Mobile Stadium last Saturday (Dec 9).
They went on to lose 1-0 to North Korea, who were hammered 4-0 by Japan, and took the second spot in the group behind the Japanese on goal difference.
Vietnam qualified to have a crack at the third place after finishing runners-up in Group B, which was won by Uzbekistan.
Japan and Uzbekistan were to square off in the final late last night at the same venue.
Thailand made few changes to the side which lost to the North Koreans on Wednesday night (Dec 13) with Supravee Miprathang returning to the starting line-up to join Chenrop Samphaodi and Picha Autra in the third-place play-off.
The home team were rattled by an early setback.
The Vietnamese made a great start to the match as two Thai defenders left Nguyen Cong Phuong unmarked and the striker headed home a Nguyen Quang Hai cross from the right in the seventh minute. Thai goalkeeper Nont Muangngarm dived full length but could not get a hand to Nguyen Cong Phuong’s angular header.
The Thais put the Vietnamese under pressure but their unrelenting efforts failed to yield an equaliser as they found their rivals’ defence impenetrable.
Chenrop had a chance to put the hosts on level footing but his shot was denied by Vietnam goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung.
The War Elephants found themselves on the receiving end again in the 21st minute when Nguyen Cong Phuong beat an off-side trap with ease to collect a long lob unchallenged inside the box before rifling a volley past Nont.
Bui Tien Dung’s heroics between the posts continued when he cleared a shot by Supachok Sarachart 10 minutes from the break to ensure that Vietnam had a 2-0 upper hand at half-time.
Thailand succeeded in pulling one back in the first minute after the break when Supachok pounced on a defensive blunder and calmly guided the ball into the net.
Bui Tien Dung made a couple of late saves, warding off attempts by Supachok and Worachit Kanitsribumphen, to help Vietnam seal the third place in the tournament.
The event was organised to give national teams, which have qualified for next month’s AFC U23 Championship, to prepare for the tournament in China where Thailand will again face Japan and North Korea.
Coach Zoran Jankovic, in his first tournament in charge of the Thai U23 squad, said he has spotted some shortcomings in the side and called for improving the fitness levels of the players.
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