Vietnam ‘have something special’ says coach after dramatic win over Qatar

Vietnam celebrate their penalty shootout win over Qatar with their fans. (AFC.com)
Updated 24 January 2018
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Vietnam ‘have something special’ says coach after dramatic win over Qatar

LONDON: Coach Park Hong-seo said the desire to make the people of Vietnam proud inspired his players to a remarkable victory over Qatar in the AFC U-23 Championship semifinal.

Vietnam looked to be heading out of the competition when Almoez Ali, the tournament’s leading scorer, put Qatar 2-1 ahead with just three minutes left on the clock in Changzhou, but Nguyen Quang Hai curled in a brilliant left-footed effort just a minute later to send the match to extra time and then penalties.

There Vietnam goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung emerged as the hero, saving spot-kicks from Ahmad Moein and Sultan Al Brake to send Vietnam through and set up Saturday’s title showdown with Uzbekistan.

“Before this tournament I said that we (as a team) have something special,” Park told afc.com. “This result against Qatar is a result of my players sweat and effort. I told all my 23 players to put up a tremendous fight and that they should not disappoint the people of Vietnam. They did not let them down.”

The win came just three days after Vietnam’s equally remarkable quarterfinal win over Iraq, again on penalties, this time 5-3 after the game had ended 3-3 after extra-time.

“Ahead of the fixture, so many people thought that my players would be tired and that maybe that could have an impact on the result,” added Hong-seo, 62. “However, I stressed to my players that they were not to use that as an excuse. This was a very tough game and my players knew its importance and we prepared very well for it.”

Qatar coach Felix Sanchez was disappointed to see his side fall at the semifinal hurdle for the second time in two years.

“It was a very tough game against a very good team,” said the Spaniard. “We hope that the players will look back and realize that they had a good tournament. In football, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Today, it was our turn to lose, but I am pretty sure they are going to continue (to grow). As players they never give up and I am sure they are going to do very well in the future. I believe they will do just that.”


Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

Updated 14 August 2018
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Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

  • Young Falcons hopeful of a semifinal spot.
  • Under-23 players keen on making a name for themselves in Indonesia.

JAKARTA: There is a widely held belief that to succeed in sport, you must start early.
Officials from the Saudi Arabia National Olympic Committee will be hoping it rings true this month as the Kingdom’s Under-23 football team prepares to prematurely kick-off its Asian Games campaign this afternoon in Jakarta, three days before the continent’s largest multi-sport competition officially begins.
Similar to the Olympics, the football tournament starts before the opening ceremony and finishes on the competition’s final day, Sept. 2. The fledgling Young Falcons face Iran today at the 28,000-capacity Wibawa Mukti Stadium in the Indonesian capital.
The Saudi NOC have brought a delegation of 169 athletes, including eight females, and will compete across 22 disciplines, including athletics, shooting, taekwondo and volleyball. The three-week Asian Games operate both as a continental precursor and, at times, a qualifying tournament for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The Young Falcons made their football debut at the Asian Games in South Korea four years ago, reaching the quarterfinals in Incheon, before losing to Iraq. Their regional neighbors were inspired by legendary striker Younes Mahmoud, who had been included as one of Iraq’s three over-age players and scored twice in a 3-0 win.
Yet the impact of Mahmoud in Korea has not influenced the team’s selection. With the Saudi Pro League starting next week, coach Saad Al-Shehri has opted to forego athletes older than 23, instead selecting a squad consisting primarily of Al-Ahli development players and a smattering of Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ettifaq-based youths.
“We haven’t brought any overage players because we are playing here as preparation for the U23 Asian Cup, which will offer qualification for Tokyo 2020,” said Faisal Almarashdi, a spokesman for the team.
“We have brought to Indonesia only players who are 21 or under as they will all be eligible for Tokyo. Many have already played at the Under-20 World Cup under coach Saad, so there was never any discussion to use the three allocated over-age slots.”
Abdullah Otayf is the model example of how Asian Games experience can help a young career. Four years ago, the deep-lying midfielder was part of the squad that traveled to Korea. This summer he was an integral part of the Green Falcons side that played at the World Cup in Russia. 
With national team coach Juan Antonio Pizzi following the competition from afar, there will be chances to catch the eye for the likes of striker Haroune Camara and midfielders Abdullah Yahya Magrshi and Ali Hassan Al-Asmari ahead of January’s Asian Cup. Both midfielders have already made their full debuts for Ahli and featured in the Jeddah club’s Champions League campaign last season, while Al-Qadisiyah’s Camara was included in Pizzi’s provisional World Cup squad before being cut from the final 23.
“These Asian Games are very important for the young players involved,” Almarashdi added.
“They are the future of the senior team so if they play well here and at the U23 Asian Cup then, we hope, they will go to Tokyo 2020. From then on the pathway to the senior team is already very clear.”  
Much like the seniors, the U23 side is both short and slight, with only two of the 10 midfielders and forwards standing above 5 foot 8 (172m). Today’s opponents Iran are not only taller and more physical, they also have, in Croatian coach Zlatko Kranjčar, a manager who knows West Asian football after short spells in Qatar and the UAE. In their most recent preparation match, Iran lost 3-2 to China. 
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, beat the UAE last week in Malaysia following a pair of friendlies against local sides. Today’s match will kick-off at 4 p.m. local time, midday in Saudi Arabia.