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'Keep your head up, Coach Park'

Posted January. 26, 2019 07:39,   

Updated January. 26, 2019 07:39


“Park Hang-seo is still the 'No.1’ coach for us.”

Vietnam played against Japan on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the AFC Asian Cup at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. Nana Nguyen, a 26-year-old Vietnamese football fan, who has watched the journey of Vietnamese national football team at the Asian Cup, looked cheerful even after the team lost to Japan 0-1. She thanked the team for fighting hard till the end rather than being disappointed with the exit of Vietnam at the Asian Cup.

“Japan is a strong team. I’m proud of Vietnamese players for making this far,” Nguyen said. “Coach Park is still Vietnam’s hero. I’d like him to continue coaching.” Dihn Juk, who visited the stadium with Nguyen, said, “Coach Park has rejuvenated the Vietnamese football team since he led the team. Vietnam did a great job at the Asian Cup. I am so happy to see their progress.”

Team Vietnam proved that they are a tough competitor to beat by harassing Japan, four-time Asian Cup Champion. After the game ended, Vietnamese football fans, who turned the stadium all red, gave a cheer to the disappointed players.

Coach Park’s strategy was to focus on the defense by situating five defenders in front of the goal keeper. But Vietnam managed to create shooting chances via counter attacks, overtaking Japan in the number of shooting (12 over 11) with a 31.8 percent ball possession rate. In particular, Vietnam's key striker Nguyen Cong Phuong stood out with his speed and foot skills, disturbing Japanese defenders such as Maya Yoshida.

Because the match was held in four days after Vietnam beat Bahrain in a penalty shoot-out on Sunday, Vietnamese players lacked stamina in the second half. In the 57th minute, Japan's midfielder Ritsu Doan converted a penalty with a shot, giving his team a victory.

Video Assistance Referee (VAR) technology, which was deployed for the first time at the Asian Cup, confirmed that a Vietnamese player committed a foul on Doan. Earlier in the 25th minute, Japan’s header was disallowed by VAR, suggesting that VAR will have a great impact on the remaining games as well.

“We did our best playing against Japan. Even though we lost today, I’m satisfied that our players fought so hard until the end,” Park said in an interview after the match. “I hope my home country will win the Asian Cup.” Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu said that Vietnam was so intense and aggressive at the dramatic match, adding that Vietnam has a great coach.

Jae-Hyeng Kim monami@donga.com