Vietnam post loss to South Korea in well-fought opener at Asia U-23 championship

The Golden Stars failed to convert a 1-0 lead into a victory

Vietnamese and South Korean players fight for the ball during their AFC U-23 Championship match in China on January 11, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Vietnam’s football team were praised for a strong showing against South Korea in the AFC U-23 Championship in China on Thursday despite failing to convert a 1-0 lead into a victory.

Seventeen minutes into the Group D opener in Kunshan, Nguyen Quang Hai curled a spectacular shot into South Korea’s net, pushing the underdog Vietnamese into a surprising lead. 

The celebration came to an abrupt halt, however, when South Korean Cho Yong-wook netted an equalizing goal in the 29th minute of play. 

Lee Keun-ho followed suit with a second goal for the 2016 runners-up in the 73rd minute.  

Vietnamese players celebrate after their opening goal. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Vietnamese players celebrate after their opening goal. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The South Koreans missed an opportunity two minutes into the second half when Doan Van Hau tackled Lee Keun-ho in the penalty box, but Yoon Seung-won eventually failed to capitalize on the penalty kick.

Vietnam’s coach Park Hang-seo, a South Korean himself, expressed regret at the post-match press conference that his team lost despite scoring the opening goal.

“In all of our defeats we make some mistakes and that’s why we lost the game,” he was quoted as saying by the AFC.

The coach, nevertheless, hailed his men for playing well and following his instruction.

“This is the first game for our team and our players were lacking in a little bit of confidence and I think they can do better,” he said.

Match highlights. Video: AFC Hub

In a commentary sent to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, football expert Doan Minh Xuong said Vietnam’s tough showing pleased fans.

“During the entire match the players exhibited harmony in their playing style and stability in their physique,” Xuong remarked.

South Korea now top Group D alongside Australia, who beat Syria 3-1 in their opener that same day.

The Group D second round is set to take place this Sunday, January 14, with the Golden Stars up against formidable opponents the Olyroos while South Korea take on Syria.

Opening victories have given both South Korea and Australia momentum to take into their next games, with analysts predicting both teams win their second match and secure a spot in the next phase of the tournament.

Vietnam's Van Thanh controls the ball against two South Korean players during their AFC U-23 Championship match in China on January 11, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Vietnam's Van Thanh controls the ball against two South Korean players during their AFC U-23 Championship match in China on January 11, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The AFC Under-23 Championship, running from January 9 to 27, is a biennial competition that features 16 of Asia’s top teams in that age group.

Japan beat South Korea to win the championship at the 2016 event in Qatar.

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