Vietnam stun Qatar in dramatic AFC U-23 Championship semifinal

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Scenes at the final whistle after Vietnam win the penalty shootout. (AFC.com)
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Fans hit the streets in Hanoi to celebrate the semifinal win. (@soccervietnam)
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There was unconfined joy in Hanoi following the win over Qatar. (@soccervietnam)
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There was a party atmosphere after Vu Van Thanh scored the winning spot-kick. (@soccervietnam)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Vietnam stun Qatar in dramatic AFC U-23 Championship semifinal

There were wild celebrations on the streets of Hanoi after Vietnam booked a place in the final of the AFC U-23 Championship with a thrilling penalty shootout win over Qatar.

Goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung was the hero for Vietnam, saving two penalties as the Southeast Asian side defeated much-fancied Qatar 4-3 on spot-kicks at the Kunshan Sports Center Stadium in China.

Tien Dung repelled efforts from Qatari duo Ahmad Moein and Sultan Al-Brake to seal the victory, one which continues Vietnam’s fairytale journey in the competition under the wily guidance of head coach Park Hang-seo, and now sets up a title showdown against either Korea Republic or Uzbekistan on Saturday.

If Tien Dung was the hero in the shootout, then Nguyen Quang Hai was the hero in normal. He scored twice to level the match, once on 69 minutes and again on 88 minutes — just 60 seconds after Qatar had gone 2-1 in front and seemingly booked their place in the final. Vietnam just refused to lie down and their indomitable spirit carried them through extra-time and then penalties.

They celebrated wildly after Vu Van Thanh rammed home the winning spot-kick while Qatar were crestfallen after bowing out at the semifinal stage for the second successive competition.

Thousands of Vietnam watched the game on a big screen at the Hang Day Stadium while thousands more poured onto the streets of Hanoic to celebrate one of the biggest days in the country's sporting history.
 


Saudi Arabia step up their World Cup preparations by flying to Switzerland for training camp

Updated 43 min 12 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia step up their World Cup preparations by flying to Switzerland for training camp

  • Squad of 28 to be based in Zurich
  • Friendlies on the horizon against Italy and Peru

Juan Antonio Pizzi has taken a 28-man squad to Zurich for the final stage of the Green Falcons’ World Cup preparations.
The party flew out of Jeddah late last night and landed in Switzerland early this morning. There they will be joined by Fahad Al-Muwallad and Salem Al-Dawsari who will fly in from Spain after playing for Levante and Villarreal on Saturday night.
The three-week training camp in the Swiss resort town of Bad Ragaz gives Pizzi the chance to get stuck into some intense tactical and physical work with his players and decide which five players to leave out of his squad. He must whittle down his list down to 23 by June 4, which gives the players get two final chances to stake their claim for a seat on the plane in friendlies against Italy on May 28 and Peru on June 3. By the time they play Germany in Leverkusen on June 8, Pizzi will have named his party for the assignment in Russia.
Pizzi is clearly much nearer knowing who he will take as he has only made minor changes to the squad he named for the recent wins against Greece and Algeria.
Al-Ittihad goalkeeper Assaf Al-Qarni replaces his club teammate Fawaz Al-Qarni as the fourth stopper in the squad, as Pizzi looks settled on retaining Al-Ahli duo Yasser Al-Mosaileem and Mohammed Al-Owais in addition to Al-Hilal’s Abdullah Al-Mayouf. One of those four will fail to make the cut as no team takes four goalkeepers to the World Cup.
There were no changes in the backline where the former Chile boss is opting for harmony. Eight of the nine defenders called up ply their trade at Al-Hilal or Al-Ahli, while Al-Nassr’s Omar Hawsawi rounds off the selection. One defender might have to make way and Al-Hilal teammates Mohammad Jahfali and Ali Al-Bulayhi could well find themselves vying for one spot on the plane to Moscow.
Abdullah Otayf and Taisir Al-Jassim look to be firm favorites to make the starting XI in the base of midfield, while the third central spot is up for grabs. Hussein Al-Moqahwi has regularly featured in that position, but Salman Al-Faraj’s return from a long injury saw him start both friendlies in the Spain training camp. Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari could emerge as the more conservative midfield enforcer against stronger sides.
The center of the pitch is where the most intense battle of positions will take place. As many as three midfielders could be left behind come June 4. Ibrahim Ghaleb has already been left out and he may be joined by Al-Shabab duo Hattan Bahebri and Abdulla Al-Khaibari. One of Mohammad Kanno and Mohammed Al Kuwaikbi could be the last man to be dropped in two weeks’ time.
Up front, Harun Kamara, a surprise call-up for the recent friendlies, failed to retain his spot in the squad so Mohannad Assiri and Mohammed Al-Sahlawi will battle it out for the sole striker position.

Squad
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al-Owais, Yasser Al-Mosaileem (Al-Ahli); Abdullah Al-Mayouf (Al-Hilal); Assaf Al-Qarni (Al-Ittihad)
Defenders: Motaz Hawsawi, Saeed Al-Muwallad, Mansour Al-Harbi (Al-Ahli); Osama Hawsawi, Mohammed Jahfali, Ali Al-Bulayhi, Mohammed Al-Burayk, Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal); Omar Hawsawi (Al-Nassr).
Midfielders: Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab); Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari, Abdulla Otayf, Salman Al-Faraj, Mohammed Kanno, Nawaf Al-Abid (Al-Hilal); Taisir Al-Jassim, Hussein Al-Moqahwi (Al-Ahli); Mohammed Al-Kuwaikbi (Al-Ettifaq); Salem Al-Dawsari (Villarreal); Fahad Al-Muwallad (Levante); Yahya Al-Shehri (Leganes)
Forwards: Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr); Mohannad Assiri (Al-Ahli)