21:11 (GMT +7) - Tuesday 20/02/2018

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U/23 football team welcomed home as heroes

Released at: 16:23, 29/01/2018

U/23 football team welcomed home as heroes

Photo: Zing.vn

Thousands wait in the rain to welcome their "heroes" home from the U/23 Asia Cup.

by Le Diem

Despite a defeat to Uzbekistan in the 120th minute of the final of the U/23 Asia Cup, the Vietnamese team returned home to a hero’s welcome.

Roads from Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport to the city’s center were flooded with enthusiastic fans waving the national flag, with the normal 40-minute trip taking five hours.

Many told local media they hoped their children learned something from the strong will the team showed in taking on and at times beating stronger competitors and poor conditions. Some older people said that they have not seen so many national flags in Hanoi since the French were defeated in 1954 and the US in 1975.

The team first headed to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum to pay their respects to the revolutionary leader before being welcomed at the Office of the Government by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thien, and other senior leaders. They later arrived to wild celebrations at My Dinh National Stadium, where all 40,000 seats were filled and many more fans gathered around outside.

Under the management of South Korean Park Hang Seo, the team made history at the tournament as the first from Southeast Asia to make the quarter-finals with surprising victories over regional powerhouses Australia, Iraq, and Qatar before reaching the final.

The final was marked by heavy snowfalls and below-zero temperatures, which most of the Vietnamese team had never faced before. After taking the game into extra time, they unfortunately couldn’t keep out a goal from a corner in the 120th and final minute. Despite the heart-breaking 2-1 loss, Vietnamese fans still had great cause to celebrate. “We are so proud of you, our brave soldiers. You are heroes in our hearts,” said Thu Thuy, one of the supporters.

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