Vietnam have earned a ticket to the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup for the first time after a miraculous victory over reigning champions Japan in the quarterfinals of the AFC Futsal Championship, which doubled as the Asian qualifiers for the tournament, on Wednesday.
The Vietnamese, standing in 44th place in the world’s futsal rankings, were not frightened by their 9th ranked opponents, as they challenged each other in the encounter in Uzbekistan.
The teams drew 4-4 after 50 minutes, including extra time, and thus went on for a showdown in the six-meter penalty shootout, an equivalent of the 11-meter penalty in association football (soccer).
The brave Vietnamese men eventually won 2-1 in the shootout, securing the historic ticket to the 2016 Futsal World Cup, to be held in Colombia from September 10 to October 1.
According to FIFA, the top five teams of the ongoing AFC Futsal Championship will qualify for the Colombia tournament as representatives of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
This means Vietnam, together with Iran, Thailand and Uzbekistan – teams that made it to the semifinals – have secured a place in the World Cup, regardless of the final results of the Uzbekistan tourney.
Those that lose in the quarterfinals will take on each other in play-offs to win the last ticket to Colombia.
A Vietnamese player (L) celebrates scoring a goal for Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Before the Japan game, the Vietnamese players, as well as supporters back home, had only hoped to be able to win the play-off ticket. They had never dreamed of beating Japan, who won the 2014 AFC Futsal Championship, their third title then, in Vietnam two years ago.
After realizing their victory, the Vietnamese burst into tears, not believing that they had made it to the World Cup.
Vietnam’s coach Bruno Garcia Formoso hailed the team’s thrilling quarterfinal victory over Japan as one of the country’s greatest sporting achievements.
“I thought it was a dream, but this is real,” said Thai Huy, who scored the 4-4 equalizer in the last minutes of extra time to send the two teams to the penalty shootout.
Phung Trong Luan, who netted the winner in the shootout, simply said, “There is nothing more awesome that this [victory].”
Vietnam will face Iran in the second semifinal on Friday, whereas the Uzbeks will play Thailand in the first the same day.
Vietnam’s coach Bruno Garcia Formoso (R) reacts during the game. Photo: Tuoi Tre