Vietnam's narrow defeat against Indonesia in the semifinal game of the 2019 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) U-22 Youth Championship in Cambodia on Sunday was not the only tragedy that haunted their supporters back home, as their ugly performance in the match also angered the fans.
While the Indonesians easily neutralized Vietnam's style of play, which combined individual and group techniques, they themselves failed to cause many challenges to the Vietnamese with their defense and counter-attack tactics.
Neither side could find the back of their opponents' net until the 69th minute, when Gian Zola Nasruloh Nugraha was brought down at the edge of the penalty box as he surged toward the goalmouth. Luthfi stepped up to take the free-kick and his perfect effort earned Indonesia the opener and only goal of the match.
No matter how Vietnam intensified their attack efforts, Indonesia survived the rest of official time and five minutes of injury time to seal a spot in the final game on Tuesday against Thailand, who won 5-3 in a penalty shootout over hosts Cambodia in the other semifinal on Sunday.
While Vietnamese supporters had their heart broken following the narrow 0-1 loss, they were even more upset seeing the young Golden Stars exhibit an 'anti-fair play' spirit throughout yesterday’s game.
Vietnam had greater ball possession in the first half, but they lost their temper after Indonesia's goal. From that point on, the Vietnamese players did not hesitate to foul their opponents.
The junior Golden Stars committed a total of 13 fouls and received two yellow cards, while their rivals made 12 fouls and were booked six yellow cards.
But just because their opponents played tough does not mean it is acceptable for Vietnam to employ the same style of play, according to local football expert Doan Minh Xuong.
"Vietnam caused troubles to themselves by losing their temper and playing violently after conceding the opening goal, when they should have been clear-headed," Xuong said.
The image of the Vietnamese side got even more tainted in the eyes of supporters when defender Van Hanh intentionally shot the ball into Marinus's body when the Indonesian player was lying on the pitch, just before the referee blew the semifinal to an end.
Even Vietnam head coach Nguyen Quoc Tuan displayed a rude attitude toward the referee at that very last moment of the game.
The journey at the 2019 AFF U-22 Youth Championship is yet to end for Vietnam, as they will fight for the third-place title against Cambodia on Tuesday. The Indonesia – Thailand final game will also take place the same day.
The tournament is the first edition of an under-22 competition in Southeast Asia, with the previous edition being an under-23 tourney.
It runs from February 17 to 26 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and is contested by eight teams.
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