Vietnam star Xuan Truong admits Malaysia tie at AFF Suzuki Cup is "like a final"

Luong Xuan Truong was impressive in Vietnam's opening 2-0 win over Laos at AFF Suzuki Cup 2020, and is shaping up as a pivotal player in their quest to retain the title. SPORTFIVE

Sunday's clash against Malaysia may only be the second of four Group B clashes that Vietnam will play at AFF Suzuki Cup 2020.

But star midfielder Luong Xuan Truong admits the match at Singapore's Bishan Stadium -- which will pit the defending champions against the team they beat in the 2018 decider -- will be "like a final".

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Having sat out the last round of matches following an opening 2-0 victory over Laos, 2018 winners Vietnam return to action at the weekend against a Malaysian outfit that are currently top of Group B after racking up wins against Cambodia and the Laotians.

Although the top two in the group will advance into the semifinals, the fact that Indonesia are also looming as contenders further intensifies to importance of what is already shaping up to a hugely-anticipated encounter.

"This match is going to be a very good test, especially if we want to defend the championship," Xuan Truong told ESPN.

"I think this is one of the highlights of the group stage -- almost 'the final' of the group stage. If we want to be the champions, we need to overcome this difficult test.

"We know it's going to be tough but, like I said, it's something we have to overcome if we want to go as far as we hope to."

Under coach Park Hang-seo, Vietnam have forged a reputation as a side that is defensively stable but also clinical on the counterattack, which has served them well in other competition such as the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup -- where they have come up against stronger opposition.

While some have called for the Vietnamese to show greater dominance they now find themselves as one of the favourites at the Suzuki Cup, Xuan Truong does not necessarily believe they have to change their approach.

"Everyone knows that we play on the counterattack," added the 26-year-old, who has been one of Vietnamese football's brightest lights since bursting on the scene in 2016 when he earned a move to South Korea's K League 1.

"We know that Malaysia have scored six goals in their first two games, which is a good performance. We'll have to do a very good job in defending and not giving them chances to score, while also playing quickly to create our own opportunities.

"While I cannot reveal details about how we're going to play, I think counterattacking is one of our options to beat Malaysia."