Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam and Uzbekistan were not title candidates at the ongoing Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship.
However, both of them have put up some awesome competition to seal their places in the gold medal-winning match in China on Saturday.
Uzbekistan from the Central Asian region suffered a 0-1 defeat to Qatar in their opening game of Group A. They then came back strongly to grab a 1-0 win over the hosts before beating Oman with the same score later.
With six points, Uzbekistan was placed second behind Qatar and booked a berth to the knock-out stage.
Awaiting them in the quarter-finals was defending champions Japan, the biggest obstacle for any team in the Chinese event.
The young Samurai Blue came to the tournament with the highest determination to prevent their crown from being taken away. They proved their power with their top place in Group B with all three wins from three matches and conceded only one goal on their way to the final eight.
The reasons for Uzbekistan to believe in a win was their belief and a victory at the 2017 M-150 Cup in Thailand in which Japan lost to them on penalties.
However, the Uzbeks did an amazing job. They hammered the reigning champions with a comfortable three-goal lead within 39 minutes, before Jasurbek Yakhshiboev sealed a comprehensive 4-0 win after the break.
They sent Japan home earlier than anyone could expect.
Their next rival was South Korea who topped Group D with seven points before beating Malaysia 2-1 in the quarter-finals.
Despite their outstanding performance, the 2016 championship’s first runner-up, who everyone believed could stop Uzbekistan’s journey, suffered the same fate as Japan.
Coach Ravshan Khaydarov’s side defeated 10-man South Korea 4-1 with Azizjon Ganiev creating a superb strike from a 27m distance in extra time of the second semi-final match.
Their match was so good that coach Khaydarov praised his players with the most beautiful words.
“My players did their maximum, it was their best performance of this tournament. We were strong tactically and physically,” he said on the-afc.com.
On their way to the final, Uzbekistan have scored 10 goals and conceded two. Their best scorer is Jasurbek Yakhshiboev who netted thrice.
On the other side, Việt Nam has had to work hard to reach their final but they deserved it for what they had contributed.
Việt Nam were one of three teams from ASEAN qualifying for the tournament. The only survivor now receives strong support from the whole region as they have been congratulated as the pride of Southeast Asia.
Việt Nam were placed in the ‘Group of Death’ with three powerhourses of South Korea, Australia and Syria.
The draw worried the whole nation and everyone thought they would make an early exit.
However, coach Park Hang-seo and his players did not. The underdogs opened their remarkable journey with a 1-2 loss to South Korea in which midfielder Nguyễn Quang Hải surprisingly scored an opener. It was a match where despite losing, the team showed off their great potential, said Vietnamese experts.
Yes, they did.
In the next two games, they beat Australia 1-0 and tied powerful Syria in a goalless draw. They were the Group D’s runners-up and advanced to the quarter-finals to face former champions Iraq.
The two sides played a remarkable chasing game which ended 3-3 in official time.
Vietnamese goalkeeper Bùi Tiến Dũng made an impressive move to deny Iraqi Bashar Resan’s kick during the penalty shootout and his team won 5-3 to advance to the last-four phase.
History was repeated when Việt Nam again led the semi-final against Qatar to the penalties. Goalie Dũng again saved two penalties in a 4-3 shootout success that came after 120 minutes of football had produced a 2-2 draw. It was the fourth time he stopped his rivals at the goal mouth in this tournament.
Việt Nam made not only Asia but also Europe keep a close eye on them. They have made headlines internationally.
“I told all my 23 players to put up a tremendous fight and that they should not disappoint the people of Việt Nam. They did not let them down,” said Park after his side’s semi-final win, adding that he still had secrets to reveal in the final.
After five matches, the Vietnamese team have scored seven goals and conceded seven. Their midfielder Hải has pocketed four goals and ranked second in the chart of best scorer behind Almoez Ali of Qatar who has six but could not score more.
Vietnamese fans also made impressive images at the tournament as they were the largest group of supporters at stadiums from the group round to the semi-finals.
Statistics said the most crowded match saw more than 1,000 spectators and Vietnamese made up half of those bringing flags, drums and their wonderful cheering all the time. — VNS