|Vietnam concludes their journey at the Asian Cup 2019 with glory and pride (Source: Fox Sports Asia)
In his article titled “Vietnam show how far they have come at AFC Asian Cup 2019”, Tan talked about a youthful generation with maturity beyond their years.
On January 24 evening, Vietnam’s Asian Cup dream came to an end with a narrow 1-0 defeat to continental giants Japan, which only came courtesy of a VAR (Video Assistant Referee)-assisted penalty that was converted by Ritsu Doan.
“Sure, on the balance of play, Japan were probably a couple of tiers superior to the Vietnamese, with the suspicion that they could have gone up a few gears had it been necessary,” Tan said.
“But, on the scoreboard, the only difference between a side that has played at the past six FIFA World Cups and one that was only appearing at the Asian Cup for the second time (excluding their participation as South Vietnam in 1956 and 1960) was a solitary spot-kick,” he added.
Granted, there was a touch of fortune in the way Vietnam reached the Round of 16 as the fourth and final third-placed team, pipping Lebanon only by virtue of a superior disciplinary record.
Nonetheless, the Vietnamese deserve credit for even being in a position to challenge having been drawn in a tough group also consisting of hot favourites Iran, 2007 winners Iraq and Yemen, Tan said.
In the first game against Iraq, the Golden Stars twice took the lead before losing by Ali Adnan’s last-gasp freekick, which was followed by a creditable 2-0 defeat to Iranian rivals.
Then came the one Group C match they were expected to win and they duly got the job done by defeating Yemen 2-0.
In the Round of 16, they found themselves up against the surprise package of the tournament in Jordan, who – in contrast – been the first team to book their knockout round berth after upset victories over Australia and Syria.
Again, Vietnam belied the odds and took the game to Jordanian rivals, eventually prevailing 4-2 in the penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw.
In the quarter-final against Japan, Vietnam had proved themselves to be a hard-to-defeat team.
“Which brings us to the glamour tie against Japan, who are yet to fire on all cylinders at the tournament but, with established Europe-based stars like Maya Yoshida, Yuya Osako and Yuto Nagatomo, would still have been heavily fancied to brush the Vietnamese aside,” Tan said.
“Yet, it was not that straightforward for the Samurai Blue and their opponents deserved plenty of credit for that,” he said.
So, as Vietnam head home, they will be no shortage of talk once again but now, there is less speculation and more affirmation.
According to Tan, the Vietnamese team concluded their journey at the Asian Cup with glory and pride.
They have proven that they belong on Asia’s biggest stage and what it takes to match some of the continent’s heaviest hitters, he said.
Such players as Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Cong Phuong and Doan Van Hau could possibly be good enough to play in Europe in a few years’ time, Tan said.
Vietnam are by far the kings of Southeast Asia in this present moment, he said.
The AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 champion will once again have to prove they belong on a bigger stage when the Asian qualifiers for the 2020 World Cup gets underway on September 5, he added.