Rejuvenated Vietnam ready for Thailand test in AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals

Despite the obvious expectation and pressure that comes with the territory, the quest to defend the AFF Suzuki Cup crown was always going be a welcome challenge for Vietnam.

Even more so after their most recent exertions ahead of the tournament saw them fall to six consecutive defeats in the final round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, albeit against opposition of the highest continental calibre in the likes of Japan, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

- Thailand unfazed by earlier-than-expected duel with Vietnam
- Ikhsan comes to Singapore's rescue to deny Indonesia advantage
- Don't miss The John Dykes Show, with all new episodes each Friday on Disney+ Hotstar. Click here to join the conversation!

A return to the regional stage has been fairly straightforward thus far for Vietnam, as they are through to the semifinals after advancing as Group B runners-up behind Indonesia.

And while defender Do Duy Manh is it positive for them to have regained that winning feeling, he does not necessarily believe their exploits in the World Cup qualifiers have been purely a negative.

"We are proud that we could qualify for the final round of World Cup qualifiers. It's not easy to be in that draw and Vietnam are the only representatives from Southeast Asia," Duy Manh told ESPN.

"It has been very good experience for our team but now we're here at the Suzuki Cup, which is the highest level of competition in the ASEAN Football Federation.

"So far, we've had good performances and are into the semifinals, but we still need to put in more effort and try our best for the upcoming games."

While Vietnam are yet to concede after four games at the competition, a 0-0 draw against Indonesia proved costly as they ultimately lost out in the battle to finish top of Group B on goal difference.

That unexpected scenario also means the Vietnamese now have to face the Suzuki Cup's record five-time champions Thailand in the semis, starting with Thursday's opening encounter at Singapore's National Stadium.

Nonetheless, Vietnam are unbeaten in their last three meetings against the Thais although coach Park Hang-seo does not believe that record will be too much of a factor.

"Thailand are always candidates to become the champions. They have high quality but I don't think they are that much stronger than the other teams," said the South Korean.

"We cannot say for certain that we can win but we must at least show something in the game.

"That (recent results against the Thais) is in the past - it won't have a big effect on tomorrow's (Thursday's) game. Each match is different so we just have to make an effort to do our best, and only think about getting a good result."