|Battle: Vietnamese Tran Van Vu (right) vies for the ball during the AFC Futsal Championship quarter-final. — VNS Photo Quang Thang
HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam will have to conquer a higher mountain on their journey in the Asian Football Confederation Futsal Championship in today's semi-final round in Uzbekistan.
Their rivals are the 10-time champions Iran, the continental highest ranking team in the world.
World No 6 Iran easily demolished Kyrgyzstan 7-0 to be one of the semi-finalists. Earlier, high-scoring wins over Jordan (6-0), China (7-0) and Iraq (13-2) saw Iran qualify for the quarter-finals with maximum points.
Coach Mohammad Nazelmalsharie insists that the real work will start when they seal their place at the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Colombia this September.
"Our main target from the start was to win this championship, so as I have kept saying, we must keep going step-by-step," Nazelmalsharie said on the-afc.com.
"In the first half we said we must share our energy and not keep our main players on the pitch for such long periods.
"The only thing we were doing was taking advantage of the mistakes the opposition made. We now have to focus on the next game because the real work begins from this moment."
The 10-time champions have never failed to reach the semi-finals of the AFC Futsal Championship, but Iran are chasing a first title since 2010 after falling short in the two previous editions.
"It was a very technical game, but I am very happy we have the strength to share the goals around between the players," Nazelmalsharie said.
"We believe it is our right to be champions and that it the reason we came here," he added.
Facing a rival who is at a higher level, Viet Nam have nothing but their confidence and no pressure after their unbelievable victory against reigning champions Japan in the last eight. Viet Nam won 2-1 on penalty following a 4-4 draw during official time.
In the previous championship in 2014, the World No 6 Iran trounced hosts Viet Nam 15-4 in the quarter-finals in HCM City.
While it is Viet Nam's fourth time at the tournament, for Iran it is their 13th edition. Being one of the four best teams here means that Viet Nam have for the first time qualified for the World Cup.
But Iran will make their seventh attempt this September in Colombia. Their best result was the fourth position in 1992 event in Hong Kong. After their 28 matches in the World Cup Iran grabbed 14 wins.
"Whether futsal or football, Viet Nam have never reached the World Cup, even in other sports, and we are delighted, and I am sure the people are thrilled. Our tournament though is not finished, the next step is going to the final here, and we have to do well in another tough match against Iran in the semi-finals," coach Bruno Formoso said.
"We have our own chance against Iran," football expert Vu Manh Hai said.
"Prior to the match versus Japan people said we had no opportunity. But what we did was incredible. We took big strides with a strong physique and tactics as well as high spirits in such a tense match," Hai said.
"Once we beat the champions we can defeat another one and may think about the championship title."
The match will start at 9pm Ha Noi time and will be aired live on Fox Sport channel.
In the earlier semi-final, Thailand will play hosts Uzbekistan at the Uzbekistan Stadium.
The Thai squad, however, will soon say goodbye to their coach.
Victor Hermans, 63, has announced that the forthcoming World Cup will be his last, with the tournament ever-present stating that he will not be coaching at the global finals after the Colombian event. — VNS