Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam witnessed football history for the second time this year.
The U23 football team qualified for the men’s semi-final of the Asian Games after defeating Syria 1-0 in a tense quarter-final at the Patriot Candrabhaga stadium of West Java, Indonesia on Monday night.
The game was Việt Nam’s first quarter-final at the regional tournament, having beaten Bahrain 1-0 with a goal by striker Nguyễn Công Phượng in the 87th minute in the last 16.
The fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude of the U23s (and the three overage players allowed in the tournament) shone against Syria, as it did during the team’s history-making run to second place at the Asian U23 Championship in China in January.
In the first half, Việt Nam had several half-chances but could not break through Syria’s strong defence.
Meanwhile, Syria created several dangerous situations, but were repelled by goalkeeper Bùi Tiến Dũng, who pulled out some amazing saves.
In the 42nd minute, Syria had a decent opportunity but the effort flew off target, leaving the first half scoreless at the break.
Twenty minutes into the second half, Việt Nam started playing with more caution, without launching any major attacks, which allowed them to stymie the Syrian aerial threat.
Normal time ended with no goals scored, setting the stage for a dramatic 30 minutes of extra time.
In the first period of extra time, goalkeeper Dũng was again the star man for the Vietnamese, saving a Syrian attempt on goal in the 102nd minute and ensuring the sides were still deadlocked going into the final 15 minutes.
Vietnamese football fan celebrates after Việt Nam’s football team win the historical match against Syria 1-0 in the quarterfinal match of the ongoing Asian Games 2018. — VNS Photo Việt Thanh
Việt Nam’s golden moment arrived three minutes into the second period.
A long ball from defender Bùi Tiến Dũng sent Nguyễn Anh Đức racing through on goal with a glorious chance. The striker struck the ball sweetly, lobbing the Syrian goalkeeper, only to see the ball crash off the crossbar.
Despair turned to elation moments later however, as Nguyễn Văn Toàn prodded the rebound home to send thousands of supporters across Việt Nam into ecstasy.
There was time for yet more drama though, as deep into added time the Vietnamese defence were caught napping, gifting Syrian midfielder Zakaria Hannan a gilt-edged chance that he screwed wide of the goal.
No matter, as soon after the referee blew the final whistle, with Việt Nam coming out with a historic 1-0 victory.
Speaking on VTC3 after the victory, former Vietnamese football star Nguyễn Hồng Sơn said the sport has achieved so much in recent months thanks to proper investment.
“Looking at Việt Nam’s strategy in this quarter-final, I have seen coach Park Hang Seo’s rightful instruction which has inspired Vietnamese players. The players were proactive in attacking and co-ordinated with each other harmoniously.”
“Despite being evaluated as the weaker team, the players have always managed to overcome and achieve victory; which is both due to their professionalism and undefeated fighting spirit,” he said.
Việt Nam’s competitor in the semi-final will be South Korea, who defeated U23 Uzbekistan 4-3 in the other semi-final the same day. The match between Việt Nam and Korea will take place on Wednesday. — VNS