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U/23 football team reaches final of Asia Cup

Released at: 15:02, 24/01/2018

U/23 football team reaches final of Asia Cup

Photo: Thethaovanhoa.vn

Tears of joy shed on the pitch and around the country as men's team makes the final of U/23 Asia Cup.

by Le Diem

Vietnam’s men’s U/23 football team surprised even their own compatriots in beating Qatar in the semi-final of U/23 Asia Cup on January 23 in China, and will now meet Uzbekistan in the final on Saturday, January 27.

The team won the match after a penalty shootout against the more fancied Qatar side, which has some of its players taking the field regularly in Spain and Belgium. Qatar took the lead before Vietnam leveled, then went ahead 2-1 before Vietnam struck again the 88th minute to send the game into extra time. It remained 2-2 after 120 minutes.

It was the second match in a row Vietnam was forced to play extra time, but their exhaustion didn’t stop them celebrating. Goalkeeper Tien Dung was the hero, saving two penalties in the shootout.

Only the most ardent of supporters expected Vietnam to emerge from group stage but the team proved up to the challenge and made history.

Vietnam was the first team from Southeast Asia to make the quarter-finals of the U/23 Asia Cup, where it defeated the much stronger Iraq in a penalty shootout. Even this was an incredible achievement, with the victory in the semi-final then seeing fans shed tears of joy.

Streets in cities, towns, and villages were full of people out celebrating just minutes after the game ended. Young and old alike banged on pots and pans and big plastic bottles out on the streets, which were blanketed with Vietnamese flags. Horns blared out, as did chants of “Vietnam vo dich” (Vietnam the Champions). “I haven’t watched any Vietnamese football team play for a long time because I’ve been disappointed so many times before,” said Anh Tuan, one of those out celebrating. “It really is a surprise. This team is so much better now, thanks to their manager, South Korean Park Hang Seo, and the investment made in training the younger generation. In our hearts they are champions already.”

The team’s exploits have seen many shops adopt creative marketing programs, offering discounts of 23 per cent on products, introducing fixed prices of VND230,000, or offering promotions for customers aged under 23 and decked out in red, the team’s official colors. One luxury shoe chain is offering 23,000 pairs of shoes for VND230,000 each, while a coffee chain in Ho Chi Minh City is offering a 23 per cent discount on its entire menu and 50 per cent off for customers named Dung, in honor of the goalkeeper.

National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, meanwhile, has offered to cover the travel and accommodation costs of two relatives of each member of the team to attend the final in Changzhou. It has also added two return flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to the Chinese city.   

The team also received VND1 billion ($44,000) from the Hanoi People’s Committee and VND2 billion ($88,000) from Ho Chi Minh City, while many local football clubs, banks, and some individuals and private enterprises have also rewarded the players, totaling VND22 billion ($975,000).

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