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Football coach in awkward position as Vietnam face his home country in semis

BEKASI, Indonesia -- Vietnam football coach Park Hang-seo found himself in an awkward position after his side beat Syria 1-0 in their quarterfinal match at the 18th Asian Games on Monday.

Vietnam edged out Syria, thanks to Van Toan Nguyen's winner in the second period extra time at Patriot Chandrabhaga Stadium in Bekasi, east of Jakarta.

Park is a South Korean. And with Vietnam's latest win, Park will have to face his home country in the semifinal at Pakansari Stadium in Cinibong, west of Jakarata, on Wednesday.


South Korea reached the last four after beating Uzbekistan 4-3 in extra time.

"First, I'm not going to cry," Park said at a press conference.

"I really love my country. But now I'm head coach of the Vietnamese national team. I will show my responsibility as head coach next match." 

Park said it's going to be critical for both sides to recover stamina as they each collected a win in extra time.

"We'll have a one-day rest, but that's same as South Korea," he said. "At this point, it's important to focus on recovering our form, both mentally and physically."

Park and South Korea's U-23 head coach Kim Hak-bum know each other very well, as they faced each other in the K League. But Park said business is business.

"I've known him since the K League days and we're sharing the same hotel," he said. "As you know, he is such good tactician he's known as '(Alex) Ferguson of the K League.' As a colleague who spent time together in the K League, I assure you we'll play a great match tomorrow."

Park, 59, has been making history with Vietnam since he became head coach of the Southeast Asian side in October 2017. He earned national hero status after leading Vietnam to a runners-up finish at the 2018 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championships in January, which was Vietnam's best result at the competition.

He has already guided Vietnam to their best performance at the Asian Games. Vietnam had never reached quarterfinals until this year's Asian Games in Indonesia.

"I'm having a good time with Vietnam and I'm enjoying my work," he said. "I'm trying to pass on my knowledge and football philosophy to this team. I always emphasize to the team that it's not about me, but it's about us."

For South Koreans, Park is best known for his role with the South Korean men's national team in 2002 when he was Guus Hiddink's assistant and helped the Taeguk Warriors finish fourth at the FIFA World Cup.

When asked about comparing his feelings then and now, Park said, "Back then I was an assistant coach, but now I'm a head coach. We stopped in the semifinals in 2002, but now, we'll not stop in the semifinals." (Yonhap)