VietNamNet Bridge – The draw for the ASEAN Football Federation (AFFC) Suzuki Cup 2010 in Ha Noi on Wednesday appeared like any other, but it was a significant event for Vietnamese football.
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Viet Nam coach Henrique Calisto. For the first time in the competition’s 14-year history, Viet Nam were seeded first.
Although Viet Nam are the reigning champions, the top seeding caps the country’s remarkable progress since it rejoined regional football as a fully independent nation only 19 years ago.
The national football team at that time was an enigma to then-strong teams like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
On Viet Nam’s debut at the region’s largest sporting event, the 1991 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in the Philippines, Viet Nam were drawn in Group B with Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
They drew 2-2 with the Philippines but lost 2-1 to Malaysia and 1-0 to Indonesia and failed to qualify for the semi-final.
At the following Singapore SEA Games in 1993, Viet Nam showed progress, beating the Philippines for the first time but eventually went home after the group stages, losing 1-0 to Indonesia and 2-0 to Singapore.
The turning point in Vietnamese football came in Thailand when they sprung a surprise at the 18th SEA Games in 1995, by winning a silver medal after losing to Thailand in the final.
After losing to the eventual winners in their opener, they beat Indonesia, a very strong team at that time. They went on to defeat Cambodia 4-0 before further progressing with a 2-0 win over Malaysia.
Their winning streak continued with a last gasp victory over Myanmar in the semi-final before eventually succumbing to Thailand in the final.
This year’s tournament is scheduled to be hosted by Viet Nam and Indonesia in December with the two top teams from each group progressing into the semi-finals, which will be played in two-leg matches.
Viet Nam enter the championships as number one seeds. Winning the trophy for a second time would see Viet Nam pull along side Thailand and Singapore among the Southeast Asian elite.
Viet Nam are in the same group as Singapore, Myanmar and the runners-up of the final qualifying round between Laos, Cambodia, Timor Leste and the Philippines.
According to Viet Nam coach Henrique Calisto, the draw is favourable for the defending champions, and Vietnamese football fans may well be in for more noisy celebrating.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News
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