Vietnam forecast to cause surprise at Asian Cup 2019

Thursday, 2019-01-03 17:47:49
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Coach Park Hang-seo (far left) carefully instructs the Vietnamese players during their first training session of 2019 in Qatar on the morning of January 2. (Photo: Vietnam Football Federation)
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NDO – Despite falling into the group that is considered a "group of death" with the participation of three West Asian teams, Vietnam are still considered to be a surprise factor in the upcoming Asian Cup 2019.

>>> Asian Cup: Vietnam team to face three Western Asian rivals in “group of death”

Recently, the prestigious sports network FOX Sports Asia ran an article to review the Vietnamese team and their journey at the upcoming Asian Cup, saying that the "Golden Dragons" could completely surpass Group D, which consists of two strong opponents, Iran and Iraq, and even win one of the top two positions in the group to qualify automatically for the last 16 with a top-two finish in their group.

Having only participated in the first Asian Cup finals in 2007 (as co-hosts), Vietnam are in a rather tough group in the 2019 tournament, as they have to compete for a ticket to progress against Iran, Iraq and Yemen.

However, according to FOX Sports Asia, with the current squad and impressive performance in the past year, coach Park Hang-seo’s side could open the opportunity to reach the Round of 16 as one of the four-best third-placed teams, according to the new format of the tournament.

The article states that the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup champions own a great mental advantage: "As the newly-crowned champions of Southeast Asia following their AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 triumph, Vietnam will head into AFC Asian Cup 2019 brimming with confidence.”

Not only that, Vietnam in 2018 also proved to be a team that cannot be underestimated: “In their one year under coach Park Hang-seo, the Vietnamese have also proven to be a team for the big occasion and will be looking to continue their rise in United Arab Emirates," FOX Sports Asia said.

The afternoon training session on January 2 saw good news as midfielder Trong Hoang (far left) completely recovered from injury. (Photo: Vietnam Football Federation)

Certainly, the first two opening matches against Iraq and Iran will be very difficult for the Vietnamese players, but a victory over Yemen in their final group game on January 16 will open a great opportunity for Vietnam to win a ticket to progress as one of the four best third-ranked teams.

It is the most feasible scenario for Vietnam to book their berth in the knockout phase, however, FOX Sports Asia also made a surprise prediction as it said that the Southeast Asian side could cause a shock if they play well in their opening match against Iraq. "Iran will be a real test for Vietnam but, should a little complacency creep into the Iraqis, the Vietnamese could just be primed to cause an upset and qualify automatically for the last 16 with a top-two finish in their group."

Nearly a year ago, many players in the current Vietnamese squad beat U23 Iraq in the quarter-finals of the 2018 AFC U23 Championship by winning a dramatic penalty shootout following a 3-3 draw after 120 minutes. Although there is a long distance from the U23 level to the national team, in football, everything can happen.

Vietnam will kick start their Asian Cup 2019 campaign against Iraq on January 8. Hopefully the pragmatic tactics from coach Park, together with the determination of the Vietnamese players after thorough preparations for the tournament, will bring about a positive result right from the first game, before stepping into an extremely difficult challenge against continental powerhouse Iran on January 12 and then Yemen four days later.

Coach Park Hang-seo has a full strength squad free of injuries for the Asian Cup 2019, which will kick off in a next few days. (Photo: Vietnam Football Federation)

According to information from the Vietnam Football Federation, Park and his players are still in active training in Qatar to prepare for the quadrennial event. After closing the year 2018 perfectly with a 4-2 victory over the Philippines in their friendly match on December 31, the whole team spent Tuesday resting and welcoming the new year, before back to the training ground yesterday morning.

On Wednesday afternoon, the national squad continued to practice and received the good news from midfielder Trong Hoang as he completely recovered from injuries and joined his teammates in full training.

Earlier, striker Van Toan also returned from a hamstring injury and was fielded in the friendly against the Philippines. Thus, Park has a full force in his hands before the kick start of Asian Cup 2019.

The team will move to UAE tomorrow to officially join the biggest tournament in the year of Asian football.