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.”


Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

Updated 23 January 2019
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Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

  • Can the mighty minnows continue impressive run in the UAE?
  • Or will the big guns start to fire in quarterfinals?

LONDON: Asia’s biggest sporting spectacle has reached its quarterfinal stage — and it’s time for teams to find their A-game. While there are few surprises in the last-eight lineup, the form of some of the big-name sides has been less than impressive. Here we deliver our verdict on the second round.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Saudi Arabia’s attack

The Green Falcons started the tournament at top speed. They came in as one of the cup favorites and in their opening two matches illustrated why. A 4-0 thrashing of North Korea was backed up with a relatively simple 2-0 victory over Lebanon. Understandably, that raised hopes that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men could go all the way in the UAE. Alas, it was not to be as a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their last group clash left them with a tricky tie against Japan. For all their efforts Saudi Arabia were unable to find the back of the net, the lack of firepower upfront costing Pizzi’s team yet again.



BIGGEST SHOCK — South Korean sloppiness

Boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son Heung-Min, South Korea were rightly declared the pre-tournament favorites. They had firepower up front, intelligence and creativity in midfield, and experience at the back. In the four matches in the UAE so far, however, they have looked anything but potential champions. They labored to beat Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China in the group stage before almost being shocked by part-timers Bahrain in the second round. South Korea now face Qatar in the last eight and, as Son said after their extra-time win over Bahrain, they need to significantly improve if they are to avoid a shock exit before the semis.



UNDER PRESSURE — Alberto Zaccheroni and the UAE



The Whites owe their place in the last eight to luck more than skill. In some ways that is not a surprise — the hosts came into the tournament without their talisman, the injured Omar Abdulrahman, and on the back of a patchy run of form. But, still, the performances on home soil have been underwhelming to say the least. That was summed up with their extra-time win over Kyrgyzstan, who were playing in their first Asian Cup. It was a far-from-convincing performance and Central Asians were unlucky not to beat Zaccheroni’s side. The UAE will have to deliver their best performance for some time if they are to progress further. Their opponents, Australia, have also performed poorly, which may offer them some encouragement.



BEST HIGHLIGHT — The mighty minnows

The big guns have not had it all their own way. That may annoy their fans, but it does show that Asian football is improving. Only a few years ago the idea that Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain and Jordan would look the equals of Australia and Co. would have seemed fanciful. But in the past two weeks the standard shown by the so-called lesser lights has been impressive — and great to watch. Last summer five Asian teams appeared at the World Cup for the first time and it was hoped that showing would act as a springboard for further progress across the continent. On the evidence of the action in the UAE that wish could be coming true.

 

PREDICTIONS