Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI -- Việt Nam are in Group B of the Asian Football Confederation U19 Championship following the recent draw in Bahrain.
The country will play North Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq on October 14, 17, and 20, respectively; all considered stronger than the Southeast Asian team.
The Vietnamese team advanced to the final round as the qualification’s Group G winners.
Việt Nam enjoy a 100 per cent record in the campaign, so far. After comfortable wins against Hong Kong and Brunei, the team were made to work hard for their single-goal victories against East Timor and Myanmar. Hà Đức Chinh emerged the team’s brightest spark with his three-goal haul.
Although regulars at the tournament in recent times and preparing for their seventh appearance in the last eight editions of the championship, the team have, however, not yet been successful in moving past the group rounds.
At last year’s tournament, Việt Nam were eliminated from Group C with just one point. North Korea were the runners-up in the Group I qualifiers with a convincing 6-0 triumph over Macau, a 1-0 win against Malaysia and a 0-3 defeat to China. Runners-up last year following a 0-1 loss to Qatar, North Korea will be hoping to go one further in 2016. The team had to work hard to ensure they had done enough to qualify for the tournament.
With three previous titles to their name – the last of which coming in 2010 -- North Korea certainly have the pedigree to win the competition, but will be heavily relying on stars Han Il-hyok and Pak Kwang-chon to propel them toward success.
Champions in 2008, United Arab Emirates have since struggled to attain such lofty heights, having twice been eliminated in the quarter-finals and once in the group stage in the three editions since.
Two years ago, they looked all set to reach the last four after advancing to the quarter-finals, only to lose 0-1 to underdogs Myanmar.
There are, however, already ominous signs UAE could mean business come October, especially after scoring 15 goals and conceding none in the three games en route to topping Group C in the qualifiers, with Majid Mohd Lafi Hamad Almehairi in lethal form with six goals.
Meanwhile, Iraq headed into last year’s qualification campaign looking to seal a seventh consecutive appearance and had no problems delivering the goods, beating Tajikistan, Maldives and Bahrain comfortably to finish at the top of Group F.
The team agonisingly missed out on a quarter-final berth, finishing behind second-placed North Korea in Group D on the basis of their head-to-head record.
The Iraqis have, however, had plenty of success in the competition previously with five titles to their name, although only one of those triumphs has come after 1988. The teams will compete in a round-robin format with the two strongest nations advancing to the quarter-finals.
The Asian championship also serves as a qualification round for the World U20 Championship 2017; the four semifinalists will participate in the world event in South Korea. Việt Nam team coach Hoàng Anh Tuấn revealed his plans for the tournament. The players, who will be informed this week, will be summoned on May 21 in Hà Nội. After 10 days of training the team will leave for the Nations Cup in Malaysia from June 3 to 6 in Meleka.
The three other teams competing in the tournament are Thailand, Singapore and hosts Malaysia.
In August, they will come together again to prepare for the ASEAN U19 Championship, which will be held one month later at home. Việt Nam are in Group A with Malaysia, East Timor, Singapore and the Philippines. Group B consists of Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Australia and Cambodia.
Tuấn said he was working with the Việt Nam Football Federation and had decided to call several freshmen who had played very well at this year’s national championship. He hoped the new players would be able to maintain their performance wearing the national team’s jerseys and bring a whiff of fresh air to the squad. -- VNS