Thailand oust champions Vietnam to march on into AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 final

Thailand entered AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 looking to reclaim their status as kings of Southeast Asian football.

The tournament's record five-time winners may still have one last hurdle to overcome but they have at least dethroned the champions from three years ago, after a 0-0 draw against Vietnam in Sunday's semifinal second leg saw them advance with a 2-0 aggregate triumph into the final, where they will meet Indonesia.

- Defensive masterclass, attacking approach bodes well for Thailand
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Despite usually being associated with free-flowing attacking football, the Thais -- with coach Alexandre Polking revealing that he expected an adventurous approach from the opposition -- instead produced a sterling defensive display to stifle Vietnam.

While the Vietnamese started brightly, they struggled to create any clear-cut opportunities apart from a Nguyen Phong Hong Duy cutback that landed at the feet of Nguyen Quang Hai shortly before halftime, only for the usually-clinical playmaker to blaze wildly off target.

Ultimately, the Thais had done the damage in the first-leg 2-0 win courtesy of a Chanathip Songkrasin double, leaving Polking a satisfied man after the final whistle.

"I must say that I'm unbelievably proud of my players. They really put in huge effort in doing a defensive job, especially in the second half, that was amazing," said the Brazilian-German.

"They showed incredible team spirit and you could see the way they were fighting for each other. We knew, with a 2-0 lead, that it was very important for us to be compact.

"It's clear that we could have played better with the ball but it was more important today that we defended well."

Meanwhile, a visibly-disappointed Park Hang-seo struggled to find the words to summarise the end of their title defence, although he was left defending some decisions he had made during the 90 minutes, including opting to play long balls against a towering Thai defence and replacing midfielder Nguyen Tuan Anh just 13 minutes after he had been brought on.

"As we've lost the game and will not be making it to the final, this is something we have to accept," said the South Korean.

"With Tuan Anh, when we moved Nguyen Thanh Chung from defence to attack, we needed to withdraw a midfielder -- that's why I had replace Tuan Anh. As for bringing in two defenders towards the end of the game, I did this because they have good attacking ability.

"When I introduced (Nguyen) Cong Phuong and (Nguyen) Van Toan, the idea was for them to play on the wings but not in the middle. Perhaps they tried to move inside thinking it would increase the likelihood of a chance.

"That is the reason why they couldn't perform well. It's not that I couldn't see that Thailand were playing with three central defenders."