Jan 29, 2019 / 17:32

Vietnam makes impressive show-off at Asian Cup 2019: AFC

The Hanoitimes - Vietnam were knocked out of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 tournament in the quarterfinal stage, but turned heads due to their stellar performance up until that point.

Vietnam's national football team has received high praise from Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Technical Study Group (TSG) for their performance in the Asian Cup 2019. 
Vietnam team at Asian Cup 2019. File photo
Vietnam team at Asian Cup 2019
TSG – an experienced group of technical analysts who have been assigned to analyze all 51 matches of the Asian Cup 2019 and will produce technical report for the tournament – said that they were in praise of the Vietnamese team, dubbed the Golden Dragons, who reached the quarterfinals in their early observations. 

“Technical observers were quick to recognize early dividends on AFC’s investment in development, such as Vietnam’s achievement of reaching the quarterfinals with more than half of the squad that had finished as runners-up at the AFC U-23 Championship in China only a year ago,” the AFC said on its website.

Vietnam, coached by Park Hang-seo, had reached the final of the U-23 continental event last year before also reaching the semifinals of the 2018 Asian Games and winning the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 towards the end of the year.

They also had a great start to the Round of 16 in the Asian Cup 2019 and defeated Jordan on penalties to make it through the quarterfinals. However, Park’s boys lost to eventual finalist Japan in what was a closely contested last eight tie.

Putting Japan on the rocks 

Vietnam had a chance to deliver one of the most stunning upsets in Asian Cup history when it took on Japan in the quarter-finals. It clashed out of the stage with a 1-0 penalty defeat to Blue Samurais but really put the opponent on the rocks at the match on January 24 at Al Maktoum Stadium. 

Japan are blue bloods of Asian football: four-times continental champions and regulars at the World Cup finals with a squad stock-full of players who have seen action in top leagues around the world.

Against such pedigree in Dubai on January 24, Vietnamese head coach – South Korean Park Hang-seo sent out a raw team of youngsters who have captivated the proud Southeast Asian nation with runs deep into three regional and age group tournaments over the last year.

Vietnam were knocked out of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 tournament in the quarterfinal stage, but turned heads due to their stellar performance up until that point. 

After the match, the word ‘Vietnam’ was actually among the most searched keywords in all of Japan! The data taken via Google Trends saw a shocking 20,000 number of searches for Vietnam, making it the second highest searched keyword in the country.

Excellent players 

Nguyen Quang Hai. Photo: FOX Sports
Nguyen Quang Hai. Photo: FOX Sports
The 'Vietnamese Messi' Nguyen Quang Hai, 21, was always expected to shine for his nation, but what stands out the most about Quang Hai is his ability to play wherever he is asked to. 

Often playing deeper than he would like, Quang Hai has proved his maturity in the national team shirt and showed at the Asian Cup that there are so many different facets to his game. Foreign sports commentators said that he’s definitely one to watch out for in the future.

Nguyen Cong Phuong. File photo
Nguyen Cong Phuong. File photo
And, coming up against an established opponent like Southampton center-back Maya Yoshida, Nguyen Cong Phuong seemed to relish the challenge and admirably led the Vietnam attack on his own.

He may not have had many scoring opportunities of his own but was constantly bringing his team-mates into play, undoubtedly eager to show the Japanese what he is truly capable of following world-class Japanese players.

Doan Van Hau. File photo
Doan Van Hau. File photo
Meanwhile, the defensive line was spearheaded by youngster Doan Van Hau who proved that even at the age of 19, he can run circles around some of Asia’s best. His form in five Asian Cup matches proved vital for the Golden Dragons.

The Golden Dragons or Golden Star warriors, most in their early twenties, have shown that fight already at the Asian Cup, coming through a tough group also featuring former champions Iran and Iraq.