|A dominant Iraqi side struggled against Việt Nam, but found the winning goal in the dying seconds. VNA/VNS Photo Tuấn Anh
HÀ NỘI The Việt Nam national football team faced Iraq in their first home match of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers on Tuesday, but the outcome was agonising for Philippe Troussier's side.
The Golden Star Warriors could have sent 20,000 fans home in jubilation, had they not conceded to Mohanad Ali's header in the dying seconds.
Despite pundits' calling for experienced players such as Nguyễn Hoàng Đức's inclusion in the line-up, Troussier still opted to start young midfielder Nguyễn Thái Sơn alongside the talismanic Nguyễn Tuấn Anh. Former captain Quế Ngọc Hải returned in defence in place of Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh in the starting eleven.
Iraq, 26 places ahead of Việt Nam in the FIFA rankings, were the obvious favourites. The men in white had sixteen shots on target, compared to Việt Nam's one. They could even have found an early goal, had it not been for Đặng Văn Lâm's spectacular save.
Lâm further denied saved in two one-on-one opportunities after his teammates lost possession dangerously.
In the 39th minute, Nguyễn Tiến Linh led a counterattack in which the men in red outnumbered their opponent. However, Linh's lobbed pass was awful, and missed Văn Toàn on the right wing completely.
After a goalless first half, Troussier brought on two young debutants in Lê Phạm Thành Long and Nguyễn Thanh Nhàn, hoping they could bring a wind of change.
Việt Nam did get a hold of the ball more and seemed to play better, but Troussier's men rarely advanced into the final third. The match turned into a physical duel in midfield between the two teams.
Ngọc Hải, who played well in defence, suffered an injury in the 66th minute and had to be subbed. As Việt Nam's stamina problems kicked in, as well as a lack of a defensive leader, chances popped up for Iraq in the final minutes.
Seconds away from the final whistle, Ibrahim Bayesh raced past a tired Phan Tuấn Tài in the right wing, and crossed in for Mohanad Ali who headed in the back of the net.
The 23-year-old Iraqi took off his shirt in jubilation, while Vietnamese players collapsed in disbelief. The final whistle sounded right after, confirming the 1-0 victory of Iraq.
"I am disappointed that we conceded in the final minutes," said Troussier, "Việt Nam had a reasonable gameplan to limit Iraq's offense today."
"The players really tried their best," the Frenchman added.
With this result, Việt Nam sit in second place behind Iraq in Group F. They will next play Indonesia, currently winless, on March 21, 2024. VNS