Thailand have knocked the defending champions, Vietnam, out of the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup and booked their place in next week’s final after a scoreless draw in the second leg of their semi-final clash completed a 2-0 aggregate win.

An impressive defensive performance saw the Thais limit Vietnam to just four shots on target but they did lose goalkeeper Chatchai Budprom to injury whilst leftback Theerathon Bunmathan will miss the first leg of the final after he picked up a second-half booking.

They were the only blemishes on a performance that coach Alexandre Polking described as one that filled him with incredible pride.

“I’m unbelievably proud of the effort that the players put in defensively, especially in the second half, it was an amazing performance.

“It shows incredible team spirit the way that the players were fighting for each other, standing together and handling the long ball pressure from Vietnam.

“I never thought I would say that I’m so proud of a defensive effort and of course we need to be better with the ball, but it was a masterclass in defending.”

Vietnam, needing to chase goals, started at a lively intensity with Nguyen Quang Hai sending a snap shot straight at Chatchai after just four minutes before full-back Ho Tan Tai lost his footing when in a good shooting position midway through the half.

Thailand suffered a key blow as Chatchai was stretchered off after picking up an injury as he raced off his line to clear the ball from an onrushing Nguyen Tien Linh, with Siwarak Tedsungnoen coming on as a 33rd minute replacement.

His first involvement was managing to hang onto to a powerfully struck free-kick from Quang Hai in the 37th minute before it was the opposition keeper, Tran Nguyen Manh, who kept Vietnam’s hopes alive as he saved a rocket from Theerathon at his near post in the sixth minute of stoppage time with the teams going to the break locked at 0-0.

Both coaches made tactical manoeuvres at the interval as they looked to gain the upper hand but it was Thailand that managed to limit Vietnam to a couple of moments from set-piece situations with Siwarak having to be alert to tip a Quang Hai free-kick wide just shy of the hour being the best of those.

The longer that things went on the more desperate that Vietnam became but equally the stronger that Thailand became in closing down the spaces they had to play into with chances at an absolute premium.

Of those limited moments the closest that either nation came to a breakthrough was a hopeful effort from distance from Vietnam’s Nguyen Hoang Duc and a drive from Thailand substitute Thanawat Suengchitthawon that flew harmlessly wide of the target.

With Vietnam’s title defence ended at the semi-final stage, coach Park Hang-seo said that he wouldn’t comment as to whether or not he feels that Vietnam remains the strongest nation in Southeast Asia.

“I have no assessment to make on that but I’m confident that we can play with all the teams in the region.

“I don’t know what the plans will be for the future, I need more time, but it’s simple that we lost the game and we must accept that.

“I don’t have any other words to say.”