Vietnam U23’s historic win against Iraq in the quarter-finals of the ongoing Asian Football Confederation U23 Championship shocked the continent’s football community.
History makers: Vietnam celebrate their win against Iraq in the quarter-finals of the Asian Football Confederation U23 Championship in China on Saturday. VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Linh
Vietnam defeated Iraq 5-3 in a penalty shootout after an extraordinary 3-3 draw following extra time at the Changshu Stadium in China on Saturday to earn a place in the semi-finals.
This tournament is first time Vietnam have qualified for the knock out stages, and the first time since 2014 Iraq have failed to reach at least the semi-finals of the AFC biennial event.
According to experts, coach Park Hang-seo’s shrewd decisions and the energy of his players led to the shock win.
“I am very happy with the win of U23 team. It comes to me as an unbelievable thing although I thought of this result. However, we are proud to take this win. I want to say thank you to the Vietnam Football Federation, fans and every Vietnamese who supports us,” said 58-year-old coach Park.
“Prior to the match, I told my players that we would do a special thing. And we did it. We made every effort and fought to the last second. In fact, I wasn’t surprised much because I always think my players can win. They have inner belief and it showed in this game. I don’t know if another miracle can come for Việt Nam but we will try our best,” Park added.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s coach Abdulghani Shahad apologised on the website the-afc.com: "I apologise to the Iraqi fans, I think that our team played a good match, especially in attack, however, our defensive mistakes cost us the goals as Vietnam scored twice from corner kicks. Mistakes can happen in football, and I take the responsibility for any bad result, regardless of the players’ mistakes, as mistakes are part and parcel of football."
Sea of red: The northern port city of Hai Phong’s fans crowd to the streets to celebrate. VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Ngoc
After the victory, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc congratulated the team who played with the courageous spirit and will of the Vietnamese people.
“This win is the pride of Vietnam’s sports and of Vietnamese football. On behalf of the Government, I send warm congratulation to the whole team and coach Park Hang-seo,” said Phuc.
The Prime Minister wished Vietnam would continue to succeed and keep faith in themselves for the upcoming semi-final.
Millions of fans in Ha Noi, HCM City and Da Nang took to the streets to celebrate the victory.
“I am really happy. My heart is still quivering. For a long time, football didn’t bring me this feeling. I want to say thank you Vietnamese team and coach Park,” said Hanoian supporter Nguyen Viet Anh.
While Bui Xuan Giang also couldn’t hide his happiness: “When coach Park started to lead Vietnam team, I didn’t believe in his ability. But via the AFC event, I knew that I made a big mistake. He and his players made me and millions of Vietnamese cry because of happiness. I thank him and his heroes very much.”
By writing a new page in the history of Vietnamese football, Vietnam have received praise from the international media.
Glory achieved: Hanoian fans take to the streets to savour Vietnam’s win. VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Dat
Hankook Ilbo, a South Korean daily newspaper, said that coach Park brought a miracle to Vietnam, leading the U23s to become the first ASEAN team to enter the final four of the AFC event.
While foxsportsasia.com said Malaysia and Vietnam restored ASEAN’s pride and respect.
“What a weekend for Southeast Asian football. It started with delight among ASEAN fans that there were two teams in the quarter-final of the 2018 U23 AFC Championships for the first time. It ended with smiles wider than the Ha Noi streets that were full of people celebrating.”
The-afc.com said Vietnam held their nerve in the shootout to reach the last four, while SpotvNews called coach Park the “Guus Hiddink of Vietnam”.
Vietnam will next meet Qatar, who defeated Palestine 3-2 in the other quarter-final, on January 23 at the Changzhou Olympic Sports Centre at 3pm (Ha Noi time).