"I’m glad to solely focus on coaching the national team, since the U23 squad have no more tournaments this year. Next, the national team will face Malaysia, trailing us by only two points in Group G of World Cup 2022 qualifiers. Malaysia are our biggest challenge besides the away game in UAE. We can advance if we top the group," Park told the Republic of Korea's broadcaster KBS before leaving for Vietnam on February 23.
Vietnam are leading Group G on 11 points after five games (three wins and two draws). The team will advance to the last round if it scoops seven points in its remaining three matches against Malaysia, Indonesia and UAE.
"It’s too soon for me to comment on Vietnam’s advance," the coach said.
Park opened up about the failure at AFC U23 Championship 2020 last month, in which Vietnam got disqualified during the group stage.
"The problem with the U23 team this year is motivation. Training for and competing in SEA Games 30 and AFC U23 Championship occurred in only 40 days. Between both tournaments, my players had only three weeks to rest and recover. It’s a chance for me and the players to reflect on our next step," he stressed.
Many attribute Vietnam’s success to Park Hang-seo’s magic, though the coach maintains miracles don’t exist.
"All we did was take things step by step, applying ourselves to the maximum."
Park revealed he had signed a new contract with Vietnam Football Federation (VFF).
"I signed a new deal with VFF on February 1. It’s different from before, since the team is now AFF Cup title holders and SEA Games gold medalists. It’s time for us to regain our motivation, and if necessary, make necessary changes," Park said.
The team will commence training on March 21. After a friendly against Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam will travel to Malaysia for the crucial match on March 31.
Both Park and his wife underwent coronavirus screening when re-entering Vietnam on February 24.
The couple did not travel to epidemic stricken Deagu and Gyeongnam, but remained in Seoul.