Vietnam vs Iraq: Waiting for Park’s magic and his positive head-to-head records with West Asian teams

Tuesday, 2019-01-08 13:09:53
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Midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai (right), the hero of Vietnam at the 2018 AFF Cup, is expected to shine in the Vietnam vs Iraq match tonight. (Photo: AFC)
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NDO – Vietnam will kick-start their 2019 Asian Cup campaign tonight (Jan 8) with the first Group D match against the 2007 champions, Iraq. Inspired by an exceptional 2018 with extraordinary success, Park Hang-seo’s Vietnamese “warriors” are looking forward to surprising the West Asian powerhouse, who are considered to have the upper hand.

* Park Hang-seo: “Vietnam will strive to achieve best possible result against Iraq”

Waiting for Park’s continuous magic

Under the Park dynasty, Vietnam’s national squad have recorded significant progress, manifested through the glorious feats they achieved last year, most recently their convincing 2018 AFF Cup trophy.

What’s worth saying is the manner that the “Golden Dragons” play under the Republic of Korea coach’s instructions. He regularly puts forward surprising and extremely effective tactics. Despite being on or off the bench, the Vietnamese players are cohesive and demonstrate high determination when trusted.

The Vietnamese players in action during a training session ahead of their 2019 Asian Cup opener against Iraq. (Photo: AFC)

Back to the recent 2018 AFF Cup, en route to the overall title, Vietnam played eight matches with each witnessing change in their starting XI. Many had feared that would affect the national team’s long-term plan. However, the results showed the opposite, as Park’s troops successfully quenched the home fans’ decade-long thirst for the regional trophy.

Park Hang-seo did not have much time to prepare for the 2019 Asian Cup, but in return he maintained almost the entire squad who won the AFF Cup last year. This will make it easier for the 60-year-old coach in implementing tactics to fight down strong opponents at the continental showpiece in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Park’s Vietnamese squad and positive head-to-head records with West Asian opponents

Park Hang-seo has posted positive head-to-head records with West Asian opponents during his more than one year since taking charge of Vietnam’s football teams. At the 2018 AFC U23 Championship, Park led Vietnam’s U23s to beat Iraq U23s in the quarterfinals to advance. In that match, the Vietnamese side fought bravely and held the opponents at 3-3 after 120 minutes before winning the tense penalty shootout to book a first-ever semifinal place.

Moving on to the 2018 Asian Games, Vietnam’s Olympic team, coached by Park, also made the last four of the men’s football event following their 1-0 victory over Syria. The “Golden Dragons” then missed the bronze medal against the UAE only in the last minutes of the second extra time.

Coach Park Hang-seo and his players are expected to create surprise at the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE. (Photo: AFC)

The solid defence and fast counterattack tactic applied by Park caused numerous difficulties for the West Asian opponents in the past, and this is expected to continue working in tonight’s game against Iraq at Zayed Sports City Stadium.

Addressing the pre-match press conference on January 7, the Korean coach admitted that the Asian Cup opener will be tough for the “Golden Dragons” as Iraq are among the tournament heavyweights. However, he affirmed that his Vietnamese side, highly motivated after a spectacular 2018, will try their best to achieve the best possible result against the 2007 champions.

Vietnam's predicted XI against Iraq according to FOX Sports Asia.