Miracle as Vietnam march on to Asian U23 Championship final

 

Goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung made history as his penalty saves helped Vietnam continue their march to the final of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Championship in Changzhou, China, on January 23.

‘Giant-killer’ Vietnam sent Qatar, another Asian powerhouse, home earlier than expected after winning 4-3 in a thrilling semi-final shootout following a 2-2 draw in official time and extra time.

Earlier in the quarter-finals, the Southeast Asian side beat powerful Iraq 5-3 in penalties, in which Dung saved one. The unexpected win marks the best ever result for Vietnam, who has never before passed the group round in this tournament.

Korean coach Park Hang-seo’s men managed to conjure a win against Qatar, despite falling behind twice in the match.

It was the Qataris who opened the scoring in the 39th minute when they were given a penalty by Singaporean referee Muhammad Taqi after Qatari striker Almoez Ali was dragged down in the box.

Akram Afif made no mistake scoring the opener.

Vietnam, known for their indefatigable spirit, recovered soon after the interval.

Nguyen Quang Hai first threatened the West Asian side with a free-kick that hit the bar.

Shortly after, following Qatar’s inability to clear substitute Nguyen Phong Hong Duy’s cross, Hai netted the ball home from close-range to claim an equaliser in the 69th minute.

Qatar then looked to take the win with six minutes remaining, when Almoez Ali bundled the ball over the line from close range after the Vietnamese failed a clearance.

Miraculously, Hai soon fired another shot into the net to bring the two sides level in the 89th minute. Receiving the ball on the edge of the box, he curled a superb shot past goalie Mohammed Al Bakari to signal the need for extra time.

In the 30 minutes of extra time, no goal was forthcoming for either side, and Vietnam again had to settle their encounter through a penalty shootout.

This time around, Vietnamese hero Hai, who scored four out of seven goals for his team, made millions of home fans nervous, when his shot, the first for Vietnam, was denied by Al Bakari, whose teammate Afif had already done a good job with the first kick for Qatar earlier.

However, Vietnamese goalkeeper Dung stopped efforts from Qatari duo Ahmad Moein in the second and Sultan Al Brake in the fifth penalties.

Vu Van Thanh then kept his nerve to convert Vietnam’s fifth shot, and send the 2017 World Cup U20 participants through to the final.

They will now set up a title showdown against Uzbekistan on January 27.

Vietnam is only one match away from a championship trophy while Qatar fell at the semi-final stage for the second successive competition following their fourth-place finish at the tournament’s last edition in 2016.

Speaking at the post-match conference coach Park praised his players as the warriors, saying that his team promised not to let their supporters down and they managed it.

Despite losing a lot of energy after four difficult matches they did great job to beat Qatar who were considered much stronger rivals.

Meanwhile, Qatar coach Felix Sanchez said he predicted it would be a tough match and it was. Qatar failed to enter the final and Vietnam deserved to be one of the finalists because they were more determined and tried hard to secure victory. In football, there were wins and losses. It would be a valuable experience for him and his players, he said

After the match, Vietnamese players received congratulations from local and international dignitaries and fans.

VNA