|A fiercely contested match between Việt Nam U20s and Indonesia U20s ended in a deserved victory for the hosts. — Photo VFF|
SURABAYA — The decider for Group F's top spot between Việt Nam U20s and Indonesia U20s on Sunday ended in a 2-3 loss for the Vietnamese. The Young Warriors, however, still qualified for the 2023 AFC U20 Asian Cup as one of the best group runners-up.
In an exciting last 30 minutes of the game, Việt Nam went behind in the second half, then came back again to lead 2-1 against the hosts, before numerous defending errors led to Indonesia grabbing the 3-2 win in the dying minutes.
A home crowd of 22,165 spectators, mostly Indonesian, was coach Shin Tae-yong's greatest advantage going into the match.
Việt Nam's last two matches only had around 50-100 spectators, and to prepare for Gelora Bung Torno Stadium's pressure, Đinh Thế Nam's men played recordings of the crowd and tried to meditate in their dressing room.
The strategy seemed to work in the first half. Indonesia were on the attack since minute one, and created many dangerous chances. Việt Nam's defence stayed sharp and kept the Indonesian strikers at bay.
Captain Khuất Văn Khang and his team also had their fair share of chances too, but could not capitalise and the first half ended goalless, with the highlights being fiery tackles and some aggressive confrontations in midfield.
In the second half, fatigue started to kick in for both teams, which led to Indonesia opening the scoring in the 60th minute. Central midfielder Nguyễn Đức Phú lost possession, and Indonesia was quick to start a counter, which finished with a 20-metre screamer from Marselino Ferdinan.
Việt Nam did not falter, instead gave a resounding reply just six minutes later. After a dribbling effort from Văn Khang who went past two defenders, he crossed for Nguyễn Thanh Nhàn to tap into an empty net.
Nhàn could not connect, but the ball reached Muhammad Ferrari's legs and the defender scored an own goal.
The tug-of-war between the two teams persisted, and it seemed that none want to settle for a draw.
In the 79th minute, Nguyễn Xuân Bắc found Nguyễn Anh Tú in an overlap play on the left wing. Tú crossed for Nhàn who played as the target man and passed back for Đinh Xuân Tiến who was free and through on goal.
Tiến hit a powerful shot to the back of the net and silenced the Indonesian crowd as he made it 2-1 for Việt Nam. The Nghệ An-born striker celebrated his goal with hands behind his ears, replying to the earlier boos from the home crowd.
But the smile on Tiến's face did not last long. Four minutes after his goal, Việt Nam conceded. From Zanadin Fariz's corner kick, Ferrari had a free header into the top corner, levelling the score and completed his redemption arc after earlier putting it into his own net.
A shell-shocked and fatigued Việt Nam eventually collapsed three minutes later. Again from the left wing, Nguyễn Hải Nam was beaten by Alfryanto Nico, who crossed low inside the box. The cross was not powerful, but troubled keeper Cao Văn Bình who made a bad judgement and let the ball go straight towards his empty net.
Before the ball could cross the line, substitute Rabbani Tasnim tapped and smashed it home and made it 3-2 for Indonesia. The Gelora Bung Torno Stadium exploded with joy, the same goes for coach Shin and his team who hugged each other as if they had won a tournament.
With the support of the home crowd, Indonesia fended off attacks from Việt Nam in the final minutes and got the three points they needed.
With this result, Indonesia have qualified for the 2023 AFC U20 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan as group winners. Việt Nam finished as runners-up, but with six points to their name and a superior goal difference (+7) compared to the remaining second place teams, they also qualified.
However, criticism is being directed at Đinh Thế Nam's method of coaching and tactics, as Việt Nam were heavily dependent on counter-attacks and wing plays, and had trouble playing against teams with greater physicality. Nam's team also lacked concentration at crucial moments, especially towards the end of the game.
Social media comments are calling for Nam's resignation, but he and his team are have shifted their focus on improving for the finals in Uzbekistan next March.
The 2023 U20 Asian Cup also acts as a qualifier for the 2023 U20 World Cup, coincidentally hosted by Indonesia. Should Việt Nam get into the semi-finals, they will repeat the success of Quang Hải & Hoàng Đức' 2017 Việt Nam U19 squad, who became the first Việt Nam football squad to qualify for a World Cup tournament. — VNS