Under no pressure, Vietnam look to surprise title favourites Iran

Saturday, 2019-01-12 11:50:05
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Vietnamese players are under no pressure and in a good mood prior to their crucial match against Iran.
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NDO – At 6pm today (Vietnamese time), Park Hang-seo’s Vietnamese side will head into the crucial Group D match against heavyweights Iran in the 2019 Asian Cup. Well-prepared both physically and psychologically, the Golden Dragons are looking forward to causing some surprises against the West Asian team, who are considered the odds-on favourites for the trophy in the United Arab Emirates.

* Asian Cup: Vietnam suffer last-gasp defeat to Iraq

* Park Hang-seo: “Iran the strongest, but Vietnam will overcome”

Which opportunities for the Golden Dragons?

Football is a sport full of unpredictable things, and when the 90 minutes on the field have yet to be concluded, any scenario could possibly happen. This proved to be true in Vietnam’s opening clash with Iraq a few days ago. Park’s troops played a brilliant and even better game against the 2007 champions during the first 45 minutes. However, when it seemed it was going to be a deserved draw for the Golden Dragons, they were forced to leave the pitch empty-handed with a 2-3 defeat overall, as Ali Adnan Kadhim scored in the last minute to book a last-gasp win for Iraq.

The result was somewhat cruel, playing down the opportunity for the Vietnamese side to advance to the knock-out phase because next up for them will be a crunch encounter against the highest-ranked Asian team, Iran, who recorded an exceptional “five-star” victory over Yemen in a lop-sided group opener.

Difficult as it may be, it is quite possible for the Southeast Asian representatives to create a stir against Carlos Queiroz’s players. The first match day of the 2019 Asian Cup group stage witnessed many big surprises, as defending champions Australia suffered a shock loss to Jordan, while continental powerhouse Japan struggled to beat Turkmenistan after falling behind. So, a reasonable playing style and a brave fighting spirit will be the “potential weapons” to drive Vietnam through the Iranian challenge.

In addition, Vietnam also possesses a special weapon named “Park Hang-seo”. The Republic of Korea tactician always causes a surprise to his opponents with effective strategic substitutions. There are strong hopes that Park’s magic will continue in tonight’s game to earn the Golden Dragons a positive result against Iran.

Addressing a pre-match press conference on Friday, Park also stated that he had already made the necessary preparations in order to help the Vietnamese “warriors” stand firm against Iran’s pressure. “Iran are technically and tactically strong. They may be more experienced, but we have youthful power. With a high level of concentration and determination, I believe that my players will be able to overcome this challenge”.

Which starting XI against Iran?

It is likely that Park will apply a solid defence and counter-attacking strategy for their Saturday meeting with Iran, which brought success to the Golden Dragons at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship. In the past, Vietnamese football once produced a seismic against the Iranian side as coach Toshiya Miura’s troops surprisingly trounced Iran U23s 4-1 at the 2014 Asian Games, by using the same playing fashion.

A number of adjustments will possibly be made to Vietnam’s starting XI against Iran, with the return of defender Doan Van Hau and midfielder Nguyen Huy Hung.

Doan Van Hau (centre) is expected to return to Vietnam's starting XI against Iran.

Specifically, the custodian of Vietnam’s goal will remain the no. 1 keeper Dang Van Lam. Que Ngoc Hai, Do Duy Manh and Bui Tien Dung will create a three-man fortress in the backline of the Golden Dragons. An active display against Iraq shows that Tien Dung is a worthy name to replace injured Tran Dinh Trong.

In the opening match, defender Nguyen Phong Hong Duy was trusted in Park’s starting XI. However, an unconvincing performance by the Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC player will lead the Republic of Korea coach to name Van Hau as a replacement. The Thai Binh-born defender is highly appreciated thanks to his all-around defensive and attacking capabilities, smart playing style and impressive 1.85m height. The remaining wing will continue to be occupied by Nguyen Trong Hoang.

In mid-field, Park Hang-seo will possibly keep Xuan Truong on the bench and give the chance to Huy Hung, who will join Hung Dung to produce the needed “steel” for Vietnam’s defensive line to blockade the attacks deployed by the Iranian side.

The three attackers of Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Cong Phuong and Phan Van Duc, played an effective match against Iraq, showing efficiency in independently managing the offensive line. So there will be no reason for Park to make any changes to these positions.

Vietnam's predicted XI against Iran.