Curacao lifted the 2019 King’s Cup trophy Saturday in Buriram after defeating Vietnam 5-4 in a penalty shootout as the two sides played to a 1-1 draw in regulation.

In the championship match, Vietnam head coach Park Hang-seo once again settled for a 4-4-2 formation and made three changes to his team’s starting 11 by inserting forward Nguyen Cong Phuong and midfielders Luong Xuan Truong and Pham Duc Huy to replace Do Hung Dung, Nguyen Tuan Anh, and the previous game’s hero, Nguyen Anh Duc. Meanwhile, Curacao sent out the same starting lineup it used in its victory over India.

Vietnam showed no hesitation in displaying their intentions to play attacking football against a stronger and better-profiled Curacao side from the start as they dominated ball possession for the majority of the first half, but were unable to turn any of their chances into goals with strikers Nguyen Van Toan and Cong Phuong missing on good openings.

Curacao also had several opportunities with shots from Leandro Bacuna and especially Jafar Arias, whose size and skills appeared to be a match-up problem for the defenders in red. Despite scoring threats on both sides, the first half ended in a goalless standstill.

Eight minutes into the second half, Vietnam was presented with a great opportunity to break the deadlock when Van Toan set up a wide-open Tran Minh Vuong inside of the 18-yard box, but the substitute skied the shot attempt.

The wasted opportunity eventually came back to haunt the Golden Dragons, as Curacao defender Jurich Carolina opened up the scoring in the 57th minute with a powerful shot past Vietnamese goalkeeper Dang Van Lam from outside the box.

Sent into the position of trailer, Vietnam were forced to speed up its tempo in hopes of leveling the score, but Curacao’s superior fitness and durability certainly made it look as if the ASEAN champions would come up short with the match entering its closing stages.

However, its efforts finally paid off with six minutes remaining in regulation. In his international senior debut, new-comer Tran Van Kien delivered a quality low cross from the right side which found club teammate Duc Huy inside the penalty area. The defensive midfielder made no mistake in putting the ball into the back of net for the equalizer.

With the score leveled again after 90 minutes, the match went straight to a penalty shootout (due to the nature of it being a friendly tournament). Of the 10 total attempts, the only miss came off the foot of Cong Phuong, one of Vietnam’s brightest stars, as he blasted his chance over the crossbar, allowing Curacao to win the shootout 5-4 and claim the championship.

The honor should boost the confidence of the Caribbean nation’s players going into the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup in Jamaica, which is set to begin in less than 10 days.

Despite the loss, Vietnam undoubtedly walks away from the tournament more experienced as a team and reassured football supremacy in Southeast Asia. Perhaps most importantly, the nation has secured a position in Asia’s Top 16 of the FIFA rankings for a spot in the pot of two in 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifications seeding.

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