Vietnam earn berth at continental U-23 championship finals

Sunday, 2017-07-23 14:46:01
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Teammates celebrate with Cong Phuong (No. 10) after his equaliser in the 33rd minute. (Credit: vnexpress.net)
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NDO – Despite a fantastic goal from crowd favourite striker Nguyen Cong Phuong, the Vietnamese football team suffered their first loss of their campaign to the Republic of Korea (ROK) in their final group match in the 2018 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship qualifiers, in Ho Chi Minh City on July 23.

>>> Cong Phuong scores twice as Vietnam trounce Timor Leste 4-0

However, as one of the five best runners-up with good results, Coach Nguyen Huu Thang’s team have still managed to qualify for the tournament’s final round in China next year.

Vietnam entered the game on Sunday evening as the top team in Group I, as they had won their two previous matches against Timor Leste and Macau (China). Meanwhile, the ROK ranked second with four points, after a win and a draw, and needed a victory to earn the top position and thereby advance to the next round of the tournament, in which they finished as last year’s runners-up.

In an unfavourable situation, the guests began the game at speed right from the off and put the Vietnamese defensive line under great pressure. However, Vietnam played fast and fierce, making it difficult for the guests to create any scoring opportunities.

In the 10th minute, Vietnam had the first chance of the match thanks to a series of rhythmic coordination. The ball went out to Van Thanh on the right and he delivered a shot to the near post, which goalie Bumkeun struggled to save.

Afterward, the hosts had a range of chances coming from the active Cong Phuong and Tuan Anh in the middle. However, Duc Chinh failed to make use of a great pass from Tuan Anh as the Da Nang striker shot straight at Bumkeun.

In the 19th minute, the guests suddenly fashioned an opener from their first dangerous attack. Vietnamese goalkeeper Tien Dung missed a hanging ball from a ROK player, allowing Sang Heon to score into the empty net.

Following the goal, Vietnam attacked aggressively and their efforts paid off in the 33rd minute. Striker Cong Phuong re-established the balance for his team with a clever move before firing a fantastic goal from outside the penalty area.

Cheered on by the equaliser, the hosts played tit for tat with the guests but the difference between the two teams proved to be efficiency. The ROK, though not applying much pressure on their opponents, managed to score with an attack in the 41st minute, the goal coming from Hwang In-beom’s effort.

This was unfortunate for Vietnam as at that time, midfielder Tien Dung was off the field due to an injury. The two teams headed in to half time with the score 2-1 to the ROK.

In the second half, Vietnam strengthened their attacks as they search for another equaliser, while the guests actively slowed down the game speed in order to maintain their lead. Coach Huu Thang’s team had several opportunities but failed to capitalise any of them.

Compared to the first half, the hosts were better at holding possession of the ball and creating more opportunities. However, the white T-shirt players lacked sophistication and accuracy in decisive situations.

The 2-1 lead was the final result after 90 minutes. Coach Huu Thang’s players lost to strong opponents in the last group match but still ranked second in Group I and also among the five out of ten group’s runners-up with best results.

Topping the table helps the ROK earn a straight ticket to the final tournament in China next year. U-23 Vietnam, as one the five best runners-up, also qualify for the final round.