|Vietnamese players train in Abu Dhabi ahead of today’s match with Iraq. — Photo courtesy of VFF|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam coach Park Hang-seo is confident of picking up at least a point when his team play Iraq in their opening match of Group D at the Asian Cup campaign today in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates.
The South Korea manager said Group D was difficult as Iran and Iraq were very strong teams in Asia. Việt Nam’s first match is against Iraq whose players are incisive, smart and had their good attacking skills. A win would hugely boost Việt Nam’s chances of reaching the knock-out stages.
Việt Nam are world No 100, 12 steps lower than Iraq. This is the second time the Vietnamese team have played in the tournament compared to eight for the Iraqis.
Park added that over the last year his team have gained big tournament experience in China (Asian U23 Championship) and Indonesia (Asian Games).
He said he receives strong support from the players who were asked to strictly follow his tactics and philosophy.
Park said the Vietnamese coaching board watched their rivals carefully and would select the most suitable players for each game.
The coach will have all strong players for the first match Nguyễn Văn Toàn and Nguyễn Trọng Hoàng have recovered from injuries.
"I am excited and feel comfortable to play the first match and hope to have positive result," said Toàn, who expected to beat Iraq again like he and teammates did at the Asian U23 Championship last January.
"In their line-up there are six U23 players. This time we meet in the level of the national team surely they would play with strong determination. However, we are confident and would work harder," he said.
“We have made great progress recently but the Asian Cup is a different competition which is for the strongest teams. We have to respect all teams. We can not rely on our success in 2018. All of us must do our best," said striker Toàn who did not feature much at the AFF Cup which Việt Nam won last month.
Park also has Hoàng back in action. The key midfielder is a box to box player who can defend as well as attack.
His important role made Park bring him to Qatar in Việt Nam’s training course and then to the UAE and wait for his recovery.
Asian top 15 best footballer Nguyễn Quang Hải is also a weapon for Park. The playmaker is well known with his impeccable technique, a bag full of tricks, blistering pace and a keen eye for goal, especially from long-range and dead-ball situations.
Iraqi midfielder Safaa Hadi said his team was ready for the match. Players were full of strength and he wanted want three important points. They had responsibility to make their supporters happy.
He said Việt Nam were not an underdog but a quality team. Iraq wanted a win to make it a good start which would be key for their campaign’s success
Coach Srecko Katanec considered a match versus Việt Nam tough.
Speaking on the-afc.com he said: "These days every match is difficult. Why? Because you can have a bad day and lose what on paper should have been an easy match. That is why I respect all teams. For me, as a coach, the more difficult matches are against Yemen and Việt Nam. They are also here to show they belong. They will fight. We will fight. Nothing is easy."
The Slovenian said Iraq had a great past. They had a lot of talented players and were there to do their best but the result depended on a lot of things along with luck.
The match will begin at 8.30pm from Zayed Sport City Stadium and be live aired on VTV6 and Fox Sports channels. — VNS