Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia to meet; Lions set for Japan duel

Three of Southeast Asia’s traditional heavyweights – Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia – will face off in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers are they were all drawn in Group F on Tuesday.

The draw for the second round of qualification took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and saw a total of ten teams from Southeast Asia find out their path to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which will see each of them play eight matches from June to next March.

Apart from the World Cup, the qualifiers will also double up for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, which means Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia all stand an excellent chance of progressing to the continent’s biggest tournament.

Although Iraq are favourites to finish top of Group F, the trio of Southeast Asian countries will all fancy their prospects of fighting it out for second place, given the remaining team is minnows Chinese Taipei.

Over in Group E, Singapore and Cambodia both face a tricky route to the next round after being pitted against Asian giants Japan, Syria and Afghanistan.

Malaysia find themselves in Group A along with regional rivals Timor-Leste, although they will be aware they will have to get a result against either United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia or Palestine to have any chance of advancing to the Asian Cup.

Neighbours Myanmar and Laos will meet in Group G along with Korea Republic, Kuwait and Lebanon, while Philippines face Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Korea DPR and Yemen in Group H.

2018 FIFA World Cup Second Round Qualifying Draw

Group A: United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Timor Leste, Malaysia

Group B: Australia, Jordan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh

Group C: China, Qatar, Maldives, Bhutan, Hong Kong

Group D: Iran, Oman, India, Turkmenistan, Guam

Group E: Japan, Syria, Afghanistan, Singapore, Cambodia

Group F: Iraq, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Chinese Taipei

Group G: Korea Republic, Kuwait, Lebanon, Myanmar, Laos

Group H: Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Philippines, Korea DPR, Yemen


2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Team of the Tournament

The final ball has been kicked and it is Thailand who have emerged triumphant after being crowned champions of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup.

Given they were widely regarded as favourites before the tournament began, it should come as no surprise that they have reclaimed their status as the number one side in Southeast Asia for the first time since 2002.

Over the past month, several members of the War Elephants established themselves as national heroes following their pivotal roles in bringing a fourth regional crown back to Thailand, including the likes of Kawin Thamsatchanan, Chanathip Songkrasin and Charyl Chappuis.

However, a number of players from Malaysia can also hold their heads high after leading their side to an impressive – and what many assumed was impossible – run to the final, while Philippines and Vietnam also gave a good account of themselves before ultimately falling at the semi-final stage.

Here, Football SEA picks our best players from the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup in a 4-2-3-1 formation, including seven substitutes, as well as our top coach from the tournament.

GK: Kawin Thamsatchanan (Thailand)

He may not have been the busiest of goalkeepers given the Thais dominated almost all their matches, but – whenever he was called upon – Kawin proved to be equal to the task.

The Muangthong United man’s finest game was arguably the 0-0 draw against Philippines in the first leg of the semi-finals, when he refused to be beaten even after his side were reduced to ten men following Adisak Kraisorn’s dismissal.

Kawin got better as the tournament wore on and kept a vital clean sheet in the first leg of the final after producing fine stops to deny Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Indra Putra Mahayuddin, which went a long way in helping the Thais claim the title.

RB: Simone Rota (Philippines)

If there were doubts over who Philippines’ first-choice right-back was ahead of the tournaments, there should no longer be any after Rota’s determined displays throughout the tournament.

The 30-year-old’s campaign got off to a fine start when he opened the Azkals’ account with a well-taken equaliser in the 4-1 Group A win over Laos, which helped settle their nerves after Khampheng Sayavutthi had fired their opponents in front.

Rota came face to face with some of the region’s most-dangerous wingers, including Zulham Zamrun and Kroekrit Thaweekarn, but never lowered his colours apart from one testing encounter against Vietnam’s Pham Thanh Luong during the group stage.

CB: Shukor Adan (Malaysia)

Alas, it was not to be for the 35-year-old as he failed to finish off his international career with a Suzuki Cup winner’s medal.

But Shukor will have no shame in the manner in which he signed off on his 14 years with Malaysia, especially given how many questioned his selection in the squad before the start of the tournament.

Handed the captain’s armband by Harimau Malaya coach Dollah Salleh, Shukor relished the challenge of leading his troops and at times looked to be the only one holding the shaky backline together, and was arguably his side’s best player throughout.

CB: Tanaboon Kesarat (Thailand)

With Thailand boss Kiatisuk Senamuang opting to leave out experienced defenders like Panupong Wongsa, Chonlatit Jantakam and Nataporn Phanrit, many wondered how the backline would hold up against the region’s deadliest strikers.

To be fair, it was in defence where the War Elephants looked the most vulnerable at times but they ultimately got the job done, and Tanaboon deserves plenty of credit for the way he stepped up despite his tender years.

Blessed with an ability to read the play, strong physical attributes as well as good technique, the future looks extremely bright for the 21-year-old, who also showed in the 2-0 Group B victory over Myanmar that he’s more than capable of being deployed in midfield.

LB: Peerapat Notechaiya (Thailand)

Peerapat started the tournament as Kiatisuk’s first-choice left-back in the 2-1 win over Singapore, although a niggling injury then saw him replaced by veteran Chayapat Kitpongsritada in the next two games.

But once he regained full fitness, the BEC Tero Sasana starlet was straight back into the team and displayed remarkable maturity for a 21-year-old, as well as impressing with his tireless running down the flank.

Thailand may currently be blessed with a host of talented left-backs, including 2013 Thai Premier League Player of the Year Theerathon Bunmathan, but Peerapat could just make the position his own if he continues to develop and realise his full potential.

CM: Sarach Yooyen (Thailand)

Given the number of famous names in the Thailand side, it was perhaps easy to overlook a pint-sized defensive midfielder by the name of Sarach Yooyen, although those who did notice him would be aware of just how important he was to the team.

Despite his slight frame, the Muangthong youngster had plenty of bite in his challenges as he looked to shield his defenders, but it was the way he broke up opposition attacks with his understanding of the game that made him stand out as an anchorman.

Once he had won possession, he was always looking to get his team on the front foot with his precise distribution, and he was also never afraid to have a go himself; his blistering freekick in the second leg of the final that forced Farizal Marlias into a flying save eventually led to Chappuis’ pivotal strike.

CM: Safiq Rahim (Malaysia)

It can be argued that Safiq still did not display his true ability despite finishing the tournament as the top scorer with six goals, and playing as a traditional central midfielder no less.

Given his obvious talent, the Johor Darul Ta’zim playmaker did not always get into the game and lacked the urgency in several key moments when his side needed it badly.

But for sheer impact and ability to keep his nerve in the biggest moments, Safiq gets the nod after his four clinically-taken penalties, along with a fine individual effort and a sublime freekick, helped Harimau Malaya get as close to winning the title as they did.

RW: Amri Yahyah (Malaysia)

Along with Shukor, Amri was perhaps the one Malaysian player that emerged from the tournament with plenty of credit to his name.

His selflessness and versatility have always been known to fans given how he’s often been deployed as a winger rather than his favoured position as a striker, but the way he – at times – looked to singlehandedly drag his side over the line was nothing short of inspirational.

Amri may have finished the tournament with only one goal to his name but much of the good work he produced was done in the build-up, and he did almost provide the goal of the tournament in the 3-2 Group B loss to Thailand after his stunning 60-yard lob over Kawin came crashing back off the bar.

AM: Phil Younghusband (Philippines)

For the third tournament in a row, the Azkals progressed to the last four to reaffirm their status as one of Southeast Asia’s major forces.

Despite having got among the goals in 2010 and 2012, Younghusband unfairly entered the tournament with queries from some quarters over his big-game mentality, despite being Philippines’ all-time top scorer at the age of 27.

By the time his side had played their opening two matches, those doubts had been emphatically dispelled with two goals and three assists to his name and although he failed to add to that tally thereafter, he often loomed as his side’s likeliest source of something special and seemed to excel playing as a second striker.

LW: Chanathip Songkrasin (Thailand)

Granted, it was Kroekrit Thaweekarn, and not Chanathip, that was Thailand’s first-choice left winger throughout the tournament but given the way the latter freely roamed the pitch, is it really possible to pinpoint a fixed position where he was deployed in?

One thing is for certain – whenever he received the ball in the attacking third, he was almost always unstoppable with his phenomenal control, sublime dribbling and blistering pace.

Nonetheless, he also bucked the trend of most silky attackers by regularly looking for his team-mates rather than go it on his own, and was deservedly named the Most Valuable Player of the competition.

ST: Le Cong Vinh (Vietnam)

Before the start of the tournament, there were rumours that coach Toshiya Miura was considering leaving Cong Vinh out of his final 22 and, following a couple of quiet years at club level, it was certainly fair to ponder if we had seen the best of the one-time golden boy of Vietnam.

While his campaign may have begun on the bench, it took him just 13 minutes to make an impact after coming on as a second-half substitute in the 2-2 draw against Indonesia; latching onto a weak clearance header and sending a spectacular first-time volley into the top corner.

Cong Vinh went on to finish the campaign with four goals to his name, including a well-taken brace in the 4-2 loss to Malaysia in the second leg of the semi-finals, and was the most-impressive spearhead in a tournament that really lacked genuine quality from the out-and-out strikers.

Coach: Kiatisuk Senamuang (Thailand)

A gold medal at last year’s Southeast Asian Games and a remarkable fourth-place finish at this year’s Asian Games – was there anything left for Kiatisuk to achieve?

The answer was a resounding yes as the legendary former Thailand striker became the first person to win the Suzuki Cup both as a player and coach, gaining a new legion of fans across the region in the process for his cool demeanour on the touchline, as well as the way he always conducted himself with immense class.

Kiatisuk’s reputation has now been further enhanced by the fact that he is the man that ended the War Elephants’ 12-year wait to reclaim the AFF crown, which was made even more impressive by the fact that the average age of his squad was just 24.

The future is bright for Thailand, and the future is certainly bright for Kiatisuk.


GK: Hassan Sunny (Singapore)

Hassan ultimately did not get much of a chance to prove his worth given Singapore’s disappointing group-stage exit, although he was one of the Lions’ best performers and continues to rival Kawin as the region’s number one goalkeeper.

FB: Zulkifli Syukur (Indonesia)

One of just two Indonesia players to start all three Group A games, Zulkifli – at times – looked like the only player in the side with a remote idea of how to defend, and deserves credit for the way he regularly covered Achmad Jufriyanto and Muhammad Roby.

CB: Le Phuoc Tu (Vietnam)

At 30, Phuoc Tu was the oldest player in the Vietnam side along with Le Tan Tai but more than held his own against younger, faster and fitter opponents, only to be ultimately let down by some shambolic defending from Dinh Tien Thanh, Nguyen Van Bien and goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh in the 4-2 semi-final second-leg loss to the Malaysians.

CM: Charyl Chappuis (Thailand)

The new poster boy of Thai football – Chappuis certainly proved he is capable of delivering the goods after grabbing four goals, although he still has room for improvement given the way he went quiet for significant periods in a couple of matches, as well as his tendency to go for the killer pass too often.

WG: Vu Minh Tuan (Vietnam)

While many expected Nguyen Van Quyet to be Vietnam’s brightest spark before the tournament began, he failed to really fire and instead it was Minh Tuan who proved to be a real threat down the right with his enterprising runs and direct style of play that really caused problems for his opponents, especially against Laos and Philippines.

FW: Indra Putra Mahayuddin (Malaysia)

Although the veteran did not start any of Malaysia’s first four matches, he had such an impact coming off the bench that it was impossible for Dollah to leave him out thereafter, and he went on to become Harimau Malaya’s most-creative outlet in the attacking third in their charge to a runners-up finish.

ST: Khairul Amri (Singapore)

Like Cong Vinh, Amri was one of the few out-and-out strikers that managed to put in a series of consistent displays, even though he only had three games to showcase his abilities. His dominant display as a target-man in Singapore’s 2-1 opening day defeat to Thailand set the standard, and he always gave opposition defenders something to think about.

Ten-man Indonesia thump Laos to sign off in style

Indonesia’s 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup campaign came to an end on Friday but they signed off with a big win in Group A after thrashing Laos 5-1 at the Hang Day Stadium.

It took Garuda just eight minutes to open the scoring when teenage starlet Evan Dimas marked his first cap with a goal; latching onto Cristian Gonzales’ layoff and skipping past Keoviengpheth Lithideth on the edge of the area before blasting a terrific left-footed shot into the top corner.

Gonzales then turned provider again in the 20th minute for another debutant as he held up the ball well inside the box before playing a pass back to Ramdhani Lestaluhu, who made no mistake in placing a first-time shot past Seng Athit Somvang.

However, Indonesia were dealt a blow in the 28th minute when Supardi Nasir was sent off for a last-man foul on Vilayout Sayyabounsou, and Khampheng Sayavutthi coolly fired home from the spot to pull one back for the Laotians.

But five minutes after halftime, the Indonesians reclaimed their two-goal cushion when Evan embarked on a fantastic run down the left and burst past two defenders before playing the ball across the face of goal, leaving Ramdhani with a simple finish at the far post.

A fourth goal then arrived in the 82nd minute through substitute Zulham Zamrun, as the winger made a darting run to the back post to meet Muhammad Ridwan’s right-wing cross with an exquisite volley past a stranded Seng Athit.

And a minute from time, the rout was completed when Zulham raced onto Firman Utina’s searching ball before whipping in a dangerous low cross that Laos captain Ketsada Souksavanh could only stab into his own goal.

Despite ultimately missing out on a place in the semi-finals due to Vietnam’s 3-1 win over Philippines in the other game, Indonesia were at least able to bow out with some of their pride restored after disappointing displays in their opening two matches.

Indonesia: I Made Wirawan, Zulkifli Syukur, Victor Igbonefo, Achmad Jufriyanto, Supardi Nasir, Hariono (Firman Utina 84’), Manahati Lestusen, Ramdhani Lestaluhu (Muhammad Ridwan 56’), Evan Dimas, Boaz Solossa (Zulham Zamrun 67’), Cristian Gonzales.

Laos: Seng Athit Somvang, Bounthavy Sipasong, Ketsada Souksavanh, Saison Khounsamnan, Saynakhonevieng Phommapanya (Sitthideth Khantahavong 68’), Keoviengpheth Lithideth, Phoutdavy Phommasane (Paseuthsack Souliyavong 61’)Vilayout Sayyabounsou (Phoutthasay Khochalern 46’), Soukaphone Vongchiengkham, Khonesavanh Sihavong, Khampheng Sayavutthi.

Indonesia determined to finish off with win over Laos

Indonesia coach Alfred Riedl has called on his charges to ensure they finish off their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Group A campaign on a high by beating Laos on Friday.

Garuda, who have picked up just one point from their opening two games, still have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the semi-finals, although they would need to beat the Laotians by a four-goal margin and for second-placed Vietnam to lose by three goals to already-qualified Philippine – and then hope to have scored more goals than the Vietnamese.

Such a scenario is extremely unlikely given Group A hosts Vietnam are in the driving seat to finish second as they only need a point to do so, while the Indonesians are currently reeling from their worst-ever defeat at the tournament after being beaten 4-0 by the Azkals on Tuesday.

To add to Riedl’s woes, he will be without the services of a couple of players in Friday’s game at the Hang Day Stadium, but is hoping his team can ensure they do not finish the group stage without a victory to their names.

“We are looking forward to this match against my former employers Laos,” he said. “Hopefully, we can land a win so we don’t go home completely empty-handed.

“I would be happy to just win the match against Laos because we are not currently in a situation where we can think about [winning by] a high score.

“We have to win as [the morale in] our team is very down.

“We have two players out due to injuries – our striker Sergio van Dijk and our midfield player Imanuel Wanggai. They will not be on the list tomorrow [Friday], but the rest are okay.”

Riedl, who also confirmed – according to the tournament’s official website – that he will be parting ways with Indonesia after the tournament, went on to play down his side’s chances of progress further by claiming he did not believe Philippines would go on to beat Vietnam by a convincing margin.

“For the match between Philippines and Vietnam, I am expecting a close match with a close result,” the Austrian added.

“I don’t believe either one of the teams can win by a big margin.”

Meanwhile, Laos have little but pride to play for after becoming the only team so far to have been eliminated after two matches – following defeats to Philippines and Vietnam.

Like Riedl, Thim Xad boss David Booth has demanded that his players make sure they finish the group stage with something to show for their efforts.

“Both teams are in a very similar situation tomorrow [Friday],” he said.

“At this moment, we have no points and two losses and our goal difference is very poor, but we also don’t want to go home empty-handed.

“I think we proved in the last game [a 3-0 loss to Vietnam] if we have to defend, we can defend.

“We could probably have kept the game at 1-0, but we decided at 1-0 we might as well try to score.”

Azkals through to Suzuki Cup semis with Indonesia rout

Philippines are through to the semi-finals of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup after securing a top-two finish in Group A with an stunning 4-0 triumph over ten-man Indonesia.

Phil Younghusband fired the Azkals ahead at the My Dinh National Stadium from the penalty spot in the 16th minute, before Manny Ott scored with a spectacular 20-yard drive seven minutes after halftime to double their lead.

The contest was then effectively ended in the 68th minute when Martin Steuble netted with a close-range strike, and the rout was completed 11 minutes from time when Rob Gier added a fourth for the Filipinos.

Having opened their campaign with a dominant 4-1 win over Laos at the weekend, Philippines entered Tuesday’s clash knowing victory would be enough to seal their berth in the last four, although it was not expected to be an easy tie for them given they had never beaten the Indonesians before.

They could have fallen behind after just two minutes when a shaky start saw their defence fail to clear their lines and allow Achmad Jufriyanto to get a snapshot away, although Patrick Deyto reacted well to make the save before Daisuke Sato hacked the ball to safety.

Philippines then had a couple of chances when Patrick Reichelt headed straight at Kurnia Meiga Hermansyah, before Misagh Bahadoran drew an even better save from the Indonesia keeper with a deflected strike that almost looped in just under the bar.

But in the 15th minute, Bahadoran’s determination not to give up on what appeared to be a lost cause saw him race through after chasing down Zulkifli Syukur’s misplaced back-pass, before being upended inside the box by Firman Utina.

The referee had no other option but to award a penalty to the Azkals, which was confidently dispatched into the far corner by Younghusband for the opener.

Buoyed at going in front, Thomas Dooley’s charges began to exude real confidence when going forward and Reichelt and Simone Rota both have decent chances to add to their tally but were just unable to hit the target.

Nonetheless, Indonesia could easily have pulled level on the stroke of halftime when Sato – in a bid to prevent Sergio van Dijk from reaching Firman Utina’s freekick – could only head the ball towards his own goal, but Deyto produced a flying save to spare his team-mate’s blushes.

Having survived that scare, Philippines knew they needed a second goal to give themselves a bit of breathing space and Ott provided that just seven minutes into the second half with an absolute stunner; latching onto Bahadoran’s cut-back and unleashed an unstoppable 20-yard half-volley into the top corner.

Eight minutes after the hour mark, things got even better for them when they were awarded an indirect freekick inside the box after Meiga was adjudged to have handled a back-pass.

While Garuda were still appealing against the decision, Younghusband quickly slipped a pass to Steuble and the Sporting Kansas City man made no mistake in slotting into the unguarded net for his side’s third.

By now, the Indonesians were facing the prospect of an embarrassing defeat and things got even worse in the 73rd minute when they were reduced to ten men as Rizky Pora was shown a straight red after preventing Younghusband from racing through on goal with a last-man foul.

Indonesia did come close to salvaging some pride four minute later when Cristian Gonzales threatened to pull one back but Deyto produced an excellent save to keep out his header, before diving bravely to deny the follow-up effort.

And with 11 minutes remaining, Philippines went to round off the scoring when Gier, having met Ott’s right-wing delivery with a stooping header that came off the post, reacted quickest to poke home the rebound.

Having secured their place in the last four with a game to spare, Philippines now only need a point in their final game against Vietnam to seal top spot, while Garuda’s hopes of qualification are all but over.

Philippines: Patrick Deyto, Simone Rota, Amani Aguinaldo, Juan Luis Guirado (Rob Gier 16’), Daisuke Sato, Manny Ott, Jerry Lucena, Martin Steuble, Patrick Reichelt (Chris Greatwich 72’), Misagh Bahadoran (Simon Greatwich 84’), Phil Younghusband.

Indonesia: Kurnia Meiga Hermansyah, Zulkifli Syukur, Muhammad Roby, Achmad Jufriyanto, Rizky Pora, Muhammad Ridwan (Boaz Solossa 46’), Raphael Maitimo, Firman Utina (Manahati Lestusen 71’), Zulham Zamrun (Cristian Gonzales 65’), Sergio van Dijk, Samsul Arif.

Azkals ready to book semi-final berth against Indonesia

Philippines coach Thomas Dooley claims his side are aware of the task at hand against Indonesia on Tuesday as they look to advance to the semi-finals of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup.

The Azkals, who opened their campaign with a dominant 4-1 win over Laos at the weekend, can seal a top-two finish in Group A – and a place in the knockout round with a game to spare – by beating the Indonesians at the My Dinh Stadium on Tuesday.

Indonesia, four-time runners-up in the competition, looked out of sorts in their own opener against Vietnam but showed tremendous resilience to come from behind twice a force a 2-2 draw.

Aware of what is at stake in the meeting between the two teams, Dooley insists his side will be determined to get the win in order to book their place in the last four.

“We’re in a good situation,” he said.

“But first, we have to beat Indonesia because it’s going to be more difficult in the final game as Vietnam are the strongest team in our group.

“I think Indonesia will be more aggressive and look to attack a little bit more, so we have to do everything right and make less mistakes.”

Philippines striker Phil Younghusband, who weighed in with one goal and two assists against the Laotians, is also hoping his side can show they belong at this level by securing a semi-final berth for the third tournament in a row.

“We know if we’re going to be the best then we have to beat the best,” the Azkals’ all-time top scorer said.

“We have to start in Southeast Asia and Indonesia are one of the best teams here. If we are going to win the tournament, we will have to beat such teams.”

Although their 2-2 draw against the Vietnamese was far from an ideal start to the tournament, Garuda boss Alfred Riedl is hoping his side can make the most of the reprieve by kicking on against Philippines, having admitted they had been dominated in their opening game.

“When you manage to get a reward from such matches, it should help you for the coming challenges,” the Austrian said.

“Each match for us at this level helps improve our fitness and hopefully we can see it in the next matches, and then the knockout round.”

Indonesia strike late to hold wasteful Vietnam to draw

Indonesia were gifted an 88th-minute equaliser as they held Group A hosts Vietnam to a 2-2 draw in the AFF Suzuki Cup on Saturday evening.

Although Que Ngoc Hai had fired the Vietnamese ahead after 11 minutes, Indonesia equalised three minutes after the half-hour mark when Zulham Zamrun capitalised on a defensive error to score.

A stunning strike by Le Cong Vinh in the 68th minute then looked to have won the game for the hosts, but with six minutes remaining, a horrendous error from goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh saw him fumble Samsul Arif’s low shot into his own goal, which was enough to hand Garuda a share of the spoils.

Having watched Philippines open Group A earlier in the day with a dominant 4-1 triumph over Laos, both sides knew a win would be extremely vital in their bid to qualify for the semi-finals.

It was Vietnam who looked the more threatening early on as Pham Thanh Luong sent a 25-yard drive wide in the sixth minute, before Nguyen Hai Anh forced his way into the box three minutes later and fired away a powerful effort that Kurnia Meiga Hermansyah did brilliantly to push wide.

Still, all that did was delay the inevitable as the deadlock was broken from the resultant corner when Sergio van Dijk met Thanh Luong’s corner with a poor defensive header straight to Ngoc Hai, who improvised well to send a deft volley looping over Meiga and into the back of the net.

Having edged ahead, Toshiya Miura’s charges began to gain a stranglehold on proceedings but they then undid all their good work by allowing their opponents to get back in the contest.

Despite being under no apparent pressure, Dinh Tien Thanh nervously nodded a harmless cross backwards into the path of Zulham, who steadied himself before clinically rifling a first-time shot into the bottom corner.

But rather than be deterred by Indonesia pulling level, the hosts continued to show plenty of energy and enterprise and continued to enjoy the dominant share of possession after the break.

They came excruciatingly close to reclaiming the lead five minutes into the second half when Nguyen Hai Anh latched onto Vu Minh Tuan’s nod-down and blasted a shot towards goal, only for Meiga to produce a fine save by tipping it onto the post.

Ngoc Hai was next to threaten the Indonesians’ goal in the 51st minute when he met another dangerous corner by Thanh Luong with a glancing header that crept just wide, before Minh Tuan sent a fierce drive off target eight minutes later.

Given how dominant their opponents were looking, it seemed as though Indonesia’s best chance of grabbing a goal was going to be through a set-piece.

That nearly transpired in the 67th minute when Achmad Jufriyanto was left unmarked inside the area and was picked out by Zulham’s corner, but the Persib Bandung centre-back spurned the opportunity by heading over.

Just a minute later, the Vietnamese made them pay for that miss as substitute Cong Vinh made an impact with a stunning goal – pouncing on Zulkifli Syukur’s clearance header and sending an unstoppable half-volley into the top corner.

Having fallen behind once more, it was now Garuda’s turn to show more initiative in the attacking third and Van Dijk almost raced through in the 78th minute to run onto Firman Utina’s over-the-top ball, until Nguyen Manh raced off his line and did well to deny him in a one-on-one situation.

Nonetheless, that was not to be the last time the Song Lam Nghe An custodian would feature prominently in the match, and unfortunately for him, it was his dreadful error that ultimately cost his side maximum points.

Receiving possession down the right with six minutes left to go, Samsul fired away a hopeful shot that looked far from threatening, yet Nguyen Manh somehow let it slip through his legs and over the line.

Still, Vietnam did create a couple more chances in the closing stages that should have seen them snatch back the lead.

First, Minh Tuan found himself in acres of space in the 88th minute after Cong Vinh had threaded a lovely pass through to him but Meiga raced off his line and denied him with an excellent save, before Van Quyet was picked out unmarked inside the box by Thanh Luong’s inch-perfect cross in injury-time yet inexplicably headed over from six yards.

In the end, the Vietnamese had only themselves to blame as they were denied victory in their opening match by the plucky Garuda.

Vietnam: Tran Nguyen Manh, Que Ngoc Hai (Nguyen Thanh Hien 87’), Dinh Tien Thanh, Le Phuoc Tu, Nguyen Xuan Thanh (Nguyen Minh Tung 81’), Nguyen Huy Hung, Ngo Hoang Thinh, Vu Minh Tuan, Nguyen Van Quyet, Pham Thanh Luong, Nguyen Hai Anh (Le Cong Vinh 55’).

Indonesia: Kurnia Meiga Hermansyah, Zulkifli Syukur, Muhammad Roby, Achmad Jufriyanto, Rizky Pora, Raphael Maitimo, Manahati Lestusen (Firman Utina 76’), Muhammad Ridwan, Boaz Solossa (Samsul Arif 61’), Zulham Zamrun (Imanuel Wanggai 89’), Sergio van Dijk.