Dubai: Vietnam showed true grit and character as they continued their dream run with a tiebreaker win over favourites Jordan to become the first team to enter the quarter-finals of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup at Al Maktoum Stadium on Sunday.
Content playing second fiddle to their physically superior opponents, Vietnam went into arrears when Baha Abdel Rahman’s well-struck free kick found the far corner of the net three minutes away from half-time.
The Golden Dragons came right back — relishing their dominance in long spates of possession before finally getting an equaliser in the 51st minute through Nguyen Cong Phuong.
Though both came close to scoring on a couple of occasions after the equaliser, none could alter the scoreline forcing the extra-time.
However, the extra 30 minutes failed to change the 1-1 scoreline to finally lead into a shoot-out that was clinched by the East Asians when Baha Faisal Saif hit the framework and Ahmad Sameer Saleh’s kick was saved by goalkeeper Dang Van Lam to send Vietnam to a 4-2 tiebreaker win.
Vietnam’s South Korean coach Park Hangseo was lost for words as he hailed his team’s amazing result over a superior opponent. “We got to the Round of 16 very narrowly, and honestly we didn’t have enough time to rest. I appreciate my players because they did their best and gave it everything today. I read an article that criticised our defensive approach. But I think this system of play is profitable for our team and we are here to win matches,” Park said in his post-match comments.
“Our players know very well that we are one team. Today too was a tough outing. Being tired is not a problem as I keep telling my players that they need to be prepared to play till the end,” he added.
Jordan coach Vital Borkelmans complimented Vietnam on their win. “They are in the quarter-finals simply because they played better and they deserve to be there,” he said.
“I am happy with my players as not many believed we could have been in the knockout stages when we arrived here first. This is football in the end where one team has to win and the other has to lose. The first half was very good and we created a lot of chances. In the second half we let in the equaliser and then we started having issues with tired bodies. Vietnam deserved to win,” he added.
Vietnam will now prepare to take on the winners of tomorrow’s match between Japan and Saudi Arabia to be played in Sharjah. “I am proud of what my players have achieved today. It is now time to enjoy this win and recover for the next match,” Park said.
“There are no easy teams from now on. All are strong sides and any of the two [Japan or Saudi Arabia] will do for us in the quarter-finals,” he admitted.
Vietnam last reached the knockout stage in 2007 when they co-hosted the AFC Asian Cup but with head coach Park Hang-seo at the helm, the Golden Dragons have enjoyed success over the last 12 months. They have finished runners-up in the 2018 AFC U23 Championship before reaching the Asian Games semi-finals for the first time in the country’s history.