Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Vietnamese head coach Park Hang-seo said Việt Nam were in a tough grouping at the 2019 Asian Cup, but his players had experience facing strong rivals.
Việt Nam are in Group D at the tournament, along with three West Asian teams, including Iran, Iraq and Yemen, following a draw held late Friday in Dubai.
“We’ve been grouped with one of the strongest teams in Asia – Iran. Iraq and Yemen can be very tricky teams to face, but our players have experience playing West Asian teams,” Park said on the AFC website after the ceremony.
The South Korean coach noted that in the past, his squad overcame and drew even with several teams from that region.
In the Asian Cup qualifier, Việt Nam grabbed two draws against Jordan. In the 2018 World Cup qualification, Việt Nam were also in the same group with Iraq. They allowed Iraq to equalise 1-1 in the last seconds of the first leg and lost with the minimum results of 0-1.
Also, the U23 squad drew 0-0 with Syria and beat Iraq in the penalty shootout at the Asian Championship in January.
In the tournament for youth, Việt Nam beat Iran 4-1 in the 2014 Asian Games group ground.
Ask about his rivals, Park said he knew how strong Iran and Iraq were, and Việt Nam had to try their best when playing against them. In Group D, Việt Nam and Yemen were placed in a lower level. This match might be the easiest for Việt Nam.
Yemen coach Abraham Mebratu Gebrelassie shared Park’s opinion: “Looking at the draw, there is no easy group, but when it comes to our group, Iran is one of the best, together with Iraq who had plenty of experience playing internationals and Olympic matches – hence those two teams are very strong."
World No 36 and Asian No 1 Iran will be eager to translate their position as the continent’s top ranked team into a tournament-winning squad, as they look to add to the hat-trick of titles won between 1968 and 1976.
Iraq, No 88, as always will be a team to watch, and they will be eager to better their fourth place finish of 2015 and add to their majestic triumph in 2007.
Việt Nam, No 103, have twice finished fourth in their previous three appearances in the finals.
Yemen, No 125, are the debutant in this year’s finals.
According to the rules, six teams that top their groups will advance to the next round. They will be joined by four third-placed teams who grabbed the best results.
Park and his players seek to become one of these four teams, so they must beat Yemen in the last group round match.
Park said the chances were equal for all teams who presented in the finals. Việt Nam’s opportunity was in a match with Yemen. If his team wins this match, and is luckier when earning points from games against Iran and Iraq, the door would be open for them.
The Korean hoped to make another special victory early next year.
Park used to talk about a special victory before his U23 squad left for the Asian championship in January, and they performed much better, with a second position for the first time in history.
Speaking about the tournament, Dương Vũ Lâm of the Việt Nam Football Federation said, “In a continent-levelled tournament like the Asian Cup, the preparation is very important, or we can say it is a key point that decides result in the games. If we can create a careful strategy, we can totally cause surprises in Dubai.”
He added that Việt Nam needed to collect as much information about their rival as possible, which would be useful for them to prepare for a single match.
Being a member of the U23 squad, national midfielder Quế Ngọc Hải understood their rivals, especially Iraq.
He said it was difficult for Park to overcome Iran and Iraq, but he believed in the coach who succeeded in his job until now. Yemen would remain a secret, because it would be the first meet of the two sides.
Hải also said it would create an earthquake if Việt Nam could secure a berth in the knock-out stage, but everything is possible in football.
Việt Nam will play their first match against Iraq on January 8. The next game is versus Iran (January 12) and then Yemen (January 15).
The championship will be kicked off on January 5 and wrap up on February 1. The winners will receive US$5 million. — VNS