Vietnam will be under no pressure when they play Japan at the 2016 Under-19 AFC Championship semifinal tonight, October 27, having already booked a historic ticket to the U-20 World Cup next year.
But, as it costs nothing to dream, fans at home are anticipating yet another miracle from Vietnam’s head coach Hoang Anh Tuan and his players at the ongoing tournament in Bahrain.
The Japan clash, to be broadcast live on FOX Sports 2 (available on the SCTV, VTVCab, HTVC, and K+ cable TV systems) at 11:15 pm Vietnam time, is the first-ever semifinal for Vietnam in six appearances at Asia’s top football tournament for under-19 players.
Prior to tonight’s game, Vietnam have remained unbeaten, with one win and two draws in the group stage, and a quarterfinal victory against hosts Bahrain last week that earned them a historic berth in the 2017 U-20 FIFA World Cup in South Korea next year.
Vietnam therefore have nothing to lose in their match against Japan, and the team are “ready to play” and will “try to win with determination,” coach Tuan asserted.
Tuan acknowledged that their match against Japan, the strongest team in this year’s competition, could be a rocky road.
“In the qualifiers and the quarterfinals, they scored a total of ten goals and conceded none,” he told the AFC website on Wednesday.
“This not only shows the strength of their attack, but also the strength of their defense.”
The Vietnamese coach said his men will continue to play with passion in tonight’s clash against “one of the strongest sides in Asia."
“After this game, it is not a problem whether we win or lose. What is important is that we learn from each other,” he said.
Meanwhile, Japan are heading toward their first-ever AFC U-19 Championship title and will “try our best to win against Vietnam,” coach Atsushi Uchiyama was quoted as saying by the AFC website.
The young Samurai Blue have never won the competition, having finished in second place on six different occasions, most recently in 2006 in a defeat by North Korea, according to AFC.
Coach Uchiyama told the AFC website after training on Wednesday that Japan attended this year’s competition with two main goals, to qualify for the U-20 World Cup and to clinch the AFC U-19 title.
With the first target already achieved, the Japanese now look to beat Vietnam and advance to the final “because it would be good to go to the World Cup next year as Asian champions,” the coach said.
“My impression of the Vietnam team is that they are very individually skilled and play an aggressive style of football, but we will also try to play aggressive tomorrow and do our best to win,” he added.
The other semifinal match will be played out between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The top four teams at the U-19 AFC tourney will join 24 other participants at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, kicking off in South Korea on May 20.