The return leg of the FAM-Frenz Asia Champions Trophy Under-16 2014 between Harimau Muda ‘D’ and PVF Vietnam in Janda Baik, Pahang on Sunday is not all about two teams battling for the coveted trophy and US$50,000 winner’s purse.
It is, however, a classic story of two players whose games have developed by leaps and bounds in the ACT 2014 and are set to take centre stage when S. Balachandran’s Harimau Muda Under-16 and Nguyen Phuc Nguyen Chuong’s PVF Vietnam renew their title rivalry.
Young Tiger’s striker Kogileswaran Raj and PVF Vietnam’s Nguyen Vu Tin are two players who can transform the facade of the second leg final with just a moment of brilliance on the pitch.
Kogileswaran and Nguyen Vu have earned the reputation of not only being top notch strikers but the duo can also be counted on where others fail to deliver when the chips are down.
The Malaysian has scored 14 goals in the tournament – one short of Chonburi FC’s leading goal poacher Sittichok Paso, while Nguyen Vu has found the net 12 times in 11 matches.
The Young Tigers defeated the Vietnamese 2-1 in the first-leg final at the Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday, with Kogileswaran putting the visitors ahead with a 39th minute penalty but Le Ngoc Bao cancelled it with a 72nd minute equaliser before Muhammad Najmuddin Samat snatched the winner against the run of play three minutes later.
Though Harimau Muda Under-16 returned home with a comfortable 2-1 first leg win over the Vietnamese, it is still too early for the fireworks and celebrations as far as coach Balachandran is concerned.
“Yes, I am extremely excited with our win in Vietnam but we cannot afford to be very comfortable with the 2-1 advantage. PVF Vietnam will be under pressure to score two goals at Janda Baik to pull away,” said Balachandran at a pre-final press conference in Kelana Jaya.
“And this is where our defenders must be focused and play hard to deny them of any opportunity,” he added.
“You just never know as anything can happen. We have always been playing an attacking game for the past few months and will maintain this system and rhythm against PVF Vietnam,” he said, adding that the midfield and attacking machinery in the squad have been having cordial understanding.
A win on Sunday will also be a timely boost for the Harimau Muda ‘D’ in the preparation for the upcoming Asian Football Confederation Under-16 championships in Bangkok next month. The top four teams will earn qualification to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile.
PVF Vietnam assistant head coach Ha Vuong Ngau Nai heralded his team’s perseverance against the Malaysians and warned his rivals that the battle is far from over yet.
“We have come here having learned from our mistakes back home in the first leg final,” said Ha Vuong. “We believe we can improve in our return match and we are looking forward towards it.”
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