After Park Hang-seo era ended with AFF Championship final defeat, where do Vietnam go from here?

Thailand have claimed a record-extending 7th AFF Championship title after a 1-0 second-leg win over Vietnam on Monday secured a 3-2 aggregate triumph in the final. Pakawich Damrongkiattisak/Getty Images

In the end, it was not meant to be for Vietnam and their beloved outgoing coach Park Hang-seo.

While the Golden Star Warriors were hoping to give Park one final hurrah at the 2022 AFF Championship, a 1-0 loss to Thailand in Monday's second leg of the decider ultimately saw them succumb 3-2 on aggregate and narrowly miss out on a second title under the South Korean.

So often a fiery figure on the touchline, with his passionate behaviour adored by the Vietnamese fans but deemed villainous by opposition supporters, there was no such outburst of emotion from Park when the final whistle went at Thammasat Stadium.

There was no need for any.

There are no more assignments for Park, at least with Vietnam. There is no AFC Asian Cup or FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers for him to turn his attention to. Or even the next AFF Championship or Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

So instead, it was the faintest hint of a contented smile that Park allowed himself.

His work is done, and what an almighty job he did since taking over in the middle of 2017.

Nonetheless, as the Park era ends, a new chapter begins for Vietnam -- so where do they go from here?

The immediate task is to find a successor capable of filling his shoes and it will not be easy.

After all, Park departs as the most successful coach in Vietnamese football history, with an AFF crown and back-to-back SEA Games gold medals merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his achievements over the past five-and-a-half years.

A quarterfinal appearance at the Asian Cup, a fourth-place finish at the Asian Games, and the third and final round of Asian qualifiers for the World Cup were all territories previously unchartered until Park came along.

Having been in the doldrums for far too long before he was handed the reins, Vietnam are now not just genuine powerhouses of the region, but a rising force on the continental stage too.

They can ill afford to regress in the future, both immediate and long-term, especially with the next Asian Cup on the horizon.

The main positive for Vietnam is that they remain a hugely-talented outfit, and that will not change regardless of the man in charge.

The bulk of the golden generation that coincided with Park's reign, led by the likes of Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Tien Linh and Do Duy Manh, are currently in their mid-20s.

They are now seasoned campaigners but are yet to reach their peak and can still improve further, and the fact that they should be around for the best part of the next decade bodes well for Vietnamese football.

From the 23-man squad that featured at the 2022 AFF Championship, only veteran playmaker Nguyen Van Quyet and back-up goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh were over the age of 30, with stalwarts Do Hung Dung, Que Ngoc Hai and Dang Van Lam the next oldest at 29.

Personnel will not be an issue, although the form of star man Quang Hai -- who has undeniable talent but has arguably had two sub-par AFF campaigns after winning the Most Valuable Player in their 2018 triumph -- will have to be addressed.

Personnel will not be an issue. Instead, style will be.

For all his successes, Park did have his fair share of critics targeting his perceived overly-conservative approach.

He always set his team out to be disciplined and hard to break down first and foremost, and that often came at the expense of showing genuine endeavour going forward.

That was fine in the initial stages and when Vietnam were up against stronger opposition, but the same approach in matches they were expected to win -- especially once they had emerged as a force to be reckoned with -- did have the propensity to frustrate.

If Vietnam are to take the next step forward, their incoming coach will have to look to not just contain continental powerhouses like Japan and Saudi Arabia -- as Park did in the most recent World Cup qualifiers -- but look to take the game to such opponents.

The key is to build on the excellent work that Park has done and implement fresh ideas, with evolution -- rather than revolution -- needed here.

If such a successor can be found, then Vietnam could just be continuing on an upward trajectory from here.

But Park has certainly set a gloriously high bar for whoever comes after him.