|Host Viet Nam lost 1-2 to Iraq in the first match of the AFC Futsal Championship's Group A.
HCM CITY (VNS) – Viet Nam lost 2-1 to Iraq in its opening game at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Futsal Championships, which kicked off on April 30 in HCM City.
This loss makes it more difficult for Viet Nam to reach the knockout stage.
Firas Mohammed Abed opened the score just two minutes after the break with a powerful angled shot from the right wing. But three minutes later, substitute Pham Thanh Dat levelled the score with an indirect kick from the touchline.
Waleed Khalid Fahem scored the winning goal just a minute before the final whistle, helping Iraq open its account with three points and giving it a big advantage in the race for a place in the last 16.
"We played well today and created a lot of opportunities but the problem is that we did not score," coach Bruno Formoso said in the post-match press conference.
"We need to improve a lot to win the next game. This is only the first game and we still have chance to qualify for the next round."
Viet Nam were the better team in the first half, controlling the game for long periods and dominating the ball possession. But Iraq put up a solid and concentrated defence to neutralise all attacks during the match at the Phu Tho Gymnasium.
Formoso's players tried to approach the rival goal from different angles and tested keeper Ahmed Duraid Ahmed with long distance strikes, but failed to make a breakthrough.
Both teams had their chance to go ahead. While the post and crossbar denied goals to Viet Nam, the Iraqi players also could not score despite two inviting passes in front of the Vietnamese goal.
Changing their tactics in the second half, Iraq went on the offensive. They put pressure on Viet Nam in the first few minutes, helping them score as Abed's shot, which keeper Ngo Dinh Thuan should have deflected, sailed into the net.
The home team fought back and quickly levelled the score in the 25th minute. With a kick from the touchline, Dat shot straight towards the goal. The ball went strong; Ahmed managed to touch it but failed to deflect it.
Viet Nam enjoyed more ball possession and got a number of opportunities to score. But it could not convert them because of inaccurate shots and Ahmed's brilliance, undisputedly the man behind the Iraqi team's victory.
Formoso decided to use power-play tactics with an all-striker and no-goalie team. The Vietnamese players had shown their knowledge of the tactic during their recent training course in Spain.
However, it did not work against Iraq's solid defence and, in a quick attack in the last minute of the match, Fahem burst down the right flank before sending a sizzling low shot past Thuan.
Formoso said his players made a lot of mistakes and that in the next match, they should try to manage the pace and play faster.
Meanwhile, coach Haitham Abbas Bawei of Iraq said they had been nervous during the tough match, but were really happy with their victory. The door is now wide open for them in the tournament.
On Thursday, Viet Nam will play Tajikistan who had lost 0-5 to Kuwait on Wednesday.
Formoso said Tajikistan is a team which plays with rapid speed. The two sides have a 50-50 chance of winning.
Iraq will play Kuwait who are on top in the group.
In the Group B match, Asia's No 1 Iran beat Indonesia 5-1. Hossein Tayebi opened the score in the 8th minute. Farhad Tavakoli extended Iran's lead in the 17th minute. Tavakoli and Asghar Hassanzadeh scored a goal each a minute later.
Indonesia saved one goal, but Vahid Shafiei scored Iran's fifth goal in the 38th minute.
Earlier Australia won 2-1 over China.
Today, the ASEAN champion Thailand will play Malaysia in the Group C match and Lebanon will meet Chinese Taipei at the Phu Tho Gymnasium.
Group D will see defending champions Japan play South Korea and Kyrgyzstan play Uzbekistan at the Ton Duc Thang University's Gymnasium.
Sixteen countries, divided into four groups, are participating in the tournament.
The championship is the main national competition of the Asian nations. It was first held in 1999 and is held annually. Iran has won 10 out of the 12 editions of the competition played so far, finishing third in two others. – VNS