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Jun 13, 2022 / 06:26

Vietnam end AFC U23 Asian Cup following defeat 0-2 to Saudi Arabia

Vietnam continue aiming high after they became the only Southeast Asian team to book a place in the quarterfinals with efforts largely contributed by players from the Hanoi Football Club.

Vietnam lost 0-2 to Saudi Arabia in the 4th quarterfinal of the ongoing AFC U23 Asian Cup 2022 on Sunday at the Lokomotiv Stadium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, ending the tournament under the coach of South Korean tactician Gong Oh-kyun who leads the team for the first time.

 Vietnam looked dangerous every time they ventured forward in the match in Tashkent on June 12. Photo: AFC

Both sides came into the tie aiming to win their maiden AFC U23 Asian Cup title with Vietnam having finished runners-up in 2018, while Saudi Arabia came second in 2013 and 2020.

Saudi Arabia entered the game at a slower pace than Vietnam. Saudi Arabia, who had not conceded a single goal in the group stage, were almost caught by surprise in the first minute when Tran Danh Trung evaded his marker on the left flank before sending a delightful cross into the path of Le Minh Binh, who just failed to connect with a diving header.

According to the Asian Football Federation (AFC), Vietnam looked dangerous every time they ventured forward and came close yet again in the 24th minute when Vu Tien Long set up Minh Binh nicely at the top of the box, only for the midfielder to send his half-volley wide. Vietnam were then denied by the crossbar as Minh Bình saw his long-range effort rebound off the woodwork in the 35th minute.

Saudi had to rely on luck to escape defeat against consecutive shots of Vietnam’s Le Minh Binh and Nham Manh Dung. Saudi failed to find the cutting edge.

The turning point of the match came in the 41st minute when a Saudi Arabia player was in pain in Vietnam’s penalty area, causing some distraction among some Vietnamese players. Moteb Al-Harbi opened the score, and Saudi doubled the lead by Firas Al-Buraikan in the 65th minute.

On the other hand, Vietnam’s pranked sporadic attacks on the counter did not get much success. Vietnam’s hopes were extinguished in the 78th minute when goalkeeper Quan Van Chuan was sent off after denying Al Brikan, who was through on goal.

However, Vietnam were not aside to give up lightly and despite trailing by two goals, they kept the intensity high as they battled to find a way back into to match.

Saad Al-Shehri’s team set up a semifinal clash with Australia while the hosts Uzbekistan will take on Japan in the other semifinal on June 15.

It is the second time in a row, and third overall, that Saudi Arabia have reached the semi-finals of the tournament, though they have yet to win the competition.

Vietnam left the tournament but left its marks with a good performance in the first half.

Delivering a post-match speech, Gong said he is still grateful for the dedication of the Vietnamese player. “We were prepared to face a strong opponent and showed our determination not to give up. Thank you to the players who fought, and gave their best. I am sure the players will be more mature in the next year or two.”

“After 17 days since taking over the team, preparing and playing, and being the first tournament in charge, I am extremely grateful to the players. I really thank them,” he shared.  

“Vietnam is a quality team, well organized and with good tactics. We also had a lot of trouble. However, Saudi Arabia persevered with its play and succeeded,” Saad Al-Shehri said in the post-match press conference.

Vietnam’s Nguyen Van Tung and goalkeeper Quan Van Chuan were honored by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for their best performances in the tournament.

“Vietnam’s Coach Gong Oh-kyun has also challenged his team to continue aiming high after they defeated Southeast Asian rivals Thailand and Malaysia for a place in the quarterfinals,” AFC said on its website.