Tuesday, 07/09/2021 09:26

The Local Game: Fortune favours the bold, coach Park

Peter Cowan

In an era when expected goals, data analysis paralysis and gegenpressing proliferate the airwaves and Twittersphere, it’s easy to forget the outsized role luck plays in football.

A weird bounce here, a tweaked hamstring there, or a gust of winder over yonder are still the difference between winning and losing a lot of the time, no matter how much we may want to believe that everything that takes place on a football pitch has a logical explanation.

To me, a key part of the coach’s job is to put their players in position to best taken advantage of what lucky bounces fall their way, or to minimise the damage some will misfortune will cause them, because ultimately the old cliché is accurate: fortune favours the bold.

Sadly, Việt Nam’s Park Hang-seo wasn’t particularly bold last week.

Yes, the team performed admirably in the 3-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia and even led for more than half of the 90 minutes but were undone by Đỗ Duy Mạnh’s sending off, which led to the equalising penalty.

I was gutted for the Hà Nội FC defender as he had been a colossus at the back up until that point and put his body in harm’s way for several last-ditch blocks and tackles.

But with the benefit of hindsight (as all Monday morning coaches have) it’s clear to me that Mạnh and the rest of the Vietnamese defenders had been put in a tough position by their coach.

It’s no secret that coach Park favours pragmatism over flair and solidity over swashbuckling, and it’s certainly hard to argue with the results, his reign being perhaps the greatest era in Vietnamese footballing history and all.

However, Park and his players face a new challenge in this third round of World Cup qualifying as they come up against the cream of the crop in Asia.

The likes of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia all struggled mightily to penetrate Việt Nam’s packed defence in the second round, but Saudi Arabia, Australia and South Korea are a different kettle of fish.

Sending off or not, on Friday morning it was a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ the Saudis were going to score.

They have players with the technical ability, physical prowess and nous needed to break down a well-organised defence, and sitting deep and allowing them to dictate play was always going to put Mạnh et al under incredible, relentless pressure, as proved to be the case.

So what’s to be done to avoid a repeat performance against Australia tonight?

I’d like to see Park give his glittering array of attacking talents the licence to take the game to the Socceroos.

On the rare occasions, Việt Nam did go after their opponents last week, the Saudi defence looked far from composed, and no wonder with technicians like Nguyễn Quang Hải, Phan Văn Đức and Nguyễn Hoàng Đức running at them.

Yes, pressing higher up the pitch and taking more risks is going to give the Australian forwards more space than Park would like, but Việt Nam’s attackers have the talent to give any defence problems, if they get more than a handful of opportunities per game to strut their stuff.

Following my advice could result in a 5-0 tonking and prove I should stick to Football Manager, but maybe, just maybe Quang Hải and company can show us all the value of a bit of bravery.

With the defence decimated by injuries and Mạnh’s suspension, what better time for coach Park to go boldly where he’s never gone before? VNS

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