Dubai: Underdogs Vietnam are braced for the worst as they face Jordan in their Round of 16 match at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup at Al Nasr’s Al Maktoum Stadium at 3pm on Sunday.
Vietnam made it through as one of the best four third-placed teams despite losing back-to-back matches against Iraq and Iran.
However, their 2-0 win against lowly Yemen was enough to make them the 16th and final team to the knockout stages with three points and a -3 goal difference.
Vietnam’s South Korean coach Park Hangseo, who is marking a full year with this team, fancied his side’s chances despite being seen as the underdogs.
“My team is not ready a 100 per cent due to a lack of time, but our quality as a team has improved. My players have learnt and got much better. One of the main aspects that I have been stressing with this bunch of players is to keep the communication lines open as this gives the unit a lot of positivity,” Park told the media at the customary prematch conference.
“Jordan has some quick players and they are capable of playing as per the need. Against Australia they were defensive, while against Syria they went on an all-out attack. One of the things I noticed in their videos is that they have scored two goals here while creating a similar situation. We will need to be on the lookout that they don’t find a third goal,” he added.
The two teams figured in the same group for the qualifiers of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. The first match was played goalless in Vietnam while the second one ended tied 1-1 as Jordan topped Group C with 12 points after three wins and as many draws. Vietnam came in second with 10 points following two wins and four draws.
Both teams had a solid build-up for this competition with Jordan starting off with a 2-1 win over India in Amman, followed by a 1-1 draw against Saudi Arabia and 0-1 and 0-2 losses to Kyrgyzstan and Qatar, respectively. They held China to a 1-1 draw in their last friendly on December 31.
Vietnam, on the other hand, had an unbeaten build-up starting off with a 2-1 win against the Philippines and two positive results against Malaysia — a 2-2 draw in Kuala Lumpur followed by a 1-0 win at home. They drew 1-1 with North Korea and then thrashed the Philippines 4-2 in their last friendly in the UAE.
Jordan look the stronger team on paper and the three performances at this competition so far. Jordan stunned Australia 1-0 and followed it up with a 2-0 win against Syria before settling to a goalless draw with neighbours Palestine to top Group B.
“We have plans to go a long way in this competition and the first step would be to win this one [against Vietnam]. That opening win against Australia gave a lot of self-belief and now the focus will be to take the next step forward,” Jordan coach Vital Borkelmans said.
“There is some amount of pressure as we owe this success to our fans and our country. But to keep our dream alive, we need to play as per the plan. We have a long way to go still and this next match is only the start,” he added.