Vietnam U23 team continue their history-making journey at the regional AFC U23 Championship in China after beating title favourite Iraq in the penalty shootout to reach the semis for the first time.
Not being highly rated as Iraq U23, as of their disadvantage in height and physical strength, coach Park Hang-seo’s players proved their strong determination to create consecutive surprise.
This is a deserved win for the Vietnamese squad as they had consistently fought back and played courageously to ease the pressure in the 120 minutes against Iraq. They tied 3-3 after the extra time and later ended up 5-3 on the stressful shootout to wrap up the thrilling match.
Speaking after the dramatic win, Vietnam’s head coach Park said this victory is to all football supporters in Vietnam. The Korean coach confirmed that Vietnam U23 won the match and he was not surprised. "I always thought that my players could win. They always believe that and today they proved their ability. We had the team spirit and the determination of the players who will never stop until the final whistle."
Iraq head coach Abdulghani Shahad said that he could not anticipated the match result: "I was very surprised by the performance of Vietnam U23, but they deserved to win the match. I would like to apologise to the Iraqi fans and take the responsibility for this defeat."
Vietnam play well to defeat former champions Iraq 5-3 in a penalty shootout after an extraordinary 3-3 draw following extra-time. (Credit: Fox Sports Asia)
Immediately after the dramatic clash, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc sent a congratulatory letter to the squad. This is the second letter from the head of government within the past few days, in which he said that the courage, willpower and bravery of the Vietnamese people resulted in the meaningful victory. It is the great pride of Vietnam sports in general and Vietnam football in particular.
He expressed his hope that the team would uphold the spirit of solidarity, discipline and determination to play well in the semi-final against Qatar and firmly step into the final match.
Late Saturday, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thien sent a letter of congratulations to the team.
The semi-final berth also earned Vietnam additional bonus. Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Vietnam National Olympic Committee decided to reward them VND1 billion. The Vietnam Football Federation also affirmed that it would present them VND1 billion after the impressive victory.
Park’s side also received big hails and congratulations from regional media and football fans for their resounding results in China.
Goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung and his teammate were heroes in sealing seal Vietnam’s dramatic victory.
Vietnam U23 now are the only representative of Southeast Asia in the semi-finals. (Credit: AFC)
Thousands of Vietnam football fans flock to the streets late Saturday to celebrate the victory of their U23 squad.NDO