“A big stage in my life” was how teenager Bounphachan Bounkong viewed his AFF Suzuki Cup debut after being handed a starting role in Laos’ 3-0 defeat to Vietnam at New Laos National Stadium on Thursday.

The Laotians were playing their first match in the competition since 2014 while it was also first ever AFF Suzuki Cup game to be played in the country.

The visitors, though, controlled the majority of the game, boasting just under 80 percent of possession, and went ahead through Nguyen Cong Phuong in the 11th minute before Nguyen An Duc doubled their advantage just before the interval.

But Laos were able to keep the score down after the restart with Vietnam only able to add one more goal, with Nguyen Quang Hai’s strike midway through the second half the last of the scoring.

“I’m very proud to be part of the national team and play my first AFF Suzuki Cup game and I feel that I’ve reached a very big stage in my life,” admitted Bounphachan.

“Of course, it’s really tough to play against a strong team like Vietnam as they are one of the tournament favourites.

“They were runners-up at the AFC U23 Championship. We’ll learn some lessons from this match and come back stronger with harder training.”

The opening day of the AFF Suzuki Cup also saw Malaysia defeat Cambodia 1-0 in the same group and Laos will next travel to Malaysia to take on the 2010 champions on Monday.

V. Sundramoorthy’s side have yet to advance from the group stage of the competition and will know that defeat in Kuala Lumpur will likely end their hopes for another year.

But Bounphachan is remaining positive ahead of the encounter and is hopeful the tournament’s second smallest nation can cause an upset against one of the regional powerhouses.

“I was satisfied with my performance against Vietnam and now we’ll be ready to give our best in the next match,” added Bounphachan.

“I think we’ll get a better result against Malaysia.”