Hanoi: Undefeated Group B heavyweights Vietnam and Malaysia go head-to-head in the first AFF Championship match in Hanoi since the historic evening four years ago when they met in the 2018 final.

On that occasion, a 1-0 win for Vietnam was enough for them to secure a second regional title and spark wild, evening-long, celebrations.

Remarkably, seven of the XI that started the second leg of that final remain with Vietnam for their AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022 campaign as does their long-serving coach Park Hang-seo, whose side beat Laos 6-0 in their tournament opener last Wednesday. 

The veteran Korean mentor, who will step down after the tournament, isn’t one for sentimentality at this point of a major tournament and believes that previous records hold little sway on current events.

“In my five years in Vietnam, including my time with the youth teams, I’ve never lost against Malaysia but these numbers mean nothing, they are just references so we can’t say that this will indicate what the result will be tomorrow.

“All I can say is that I have trust and belief in my players and as is the target for Malaysia we will be doing our best to win the game.”

There has been some speculation that star forward Nguyen Quang Hai may be an injury concern ahead of the clash but Park played down those fears whilst also stressing that there is little to be read into the fact that both nations are set to line up in a similar 3-4-3 formation.

“As for Quang Hai he trained with the team 100% yesterday and I don’t want to comment on the Malaysian tactics or formation.

“This only show the numbers and positions of each player and it doesn’t mean that it will help them win. It depends on the players and the team tactics as well.”

In comparison to the hosts, this is a vastly different Malaysian outfit to that which fell in the final four years ago and after a fine start to the tournament, with back-to-back wins against Myanmar and Laos, the target is now clear for coach Kim Pan-gon.

“What Vietnam have done for the past couple of years is fantastic and we respect them a lot but we have also gone through many tough games and are coming here knowing that a win will keep us in top position of the group.

“We will play with confidence, we have belief, and we are not afraid of any team.”