As rain-bearing clouds filled the sky in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, where thousands of supporters gathered to watch the 2018 Asian Games men’s football bronze-medal match on Saturday afternoon, some saw the gloomy weather as a bad omen. They were right.
It was raining heavily in the southern metropolis when Vietnam and the UAE entered the penalty shootout, without having to play the extra-time, after a 1-1 draw in their third-place clash in Indonesia.
The Vietnamese team eventually broke the heart of tens of millions of their supporters, as they lost 3-4 on penalties and saw the historic bronze medal slipped through their hands.
The Golden Stars dominated the beginning of the match, playing mostly in the UAE field with repeated attacks.
But the UAE proved that they were not the underdogs as they quickly made Vietnam pay for their negligent defense by taking the lead in the 17th minute.
The easy goal, ‘gifted’ by Vietnam, came as Alhashmi Ahmad was not blocked by any of his opponents and freely kicked the ball into the net from a far distance.
Vietnam’s defensive line continued to be threatened with more shoots from the UAE in the next ten minutes, but all of them were off the target.
Veteran Van Quyet brought the game back to the starting line in the 27th minute as he finalized a pass by Nguyen Van Toan with a decisive touch at the near post.
After the 1-1 first half, Vietnam missed several chances to settle the match without having to play the penalties, as the UAE goalkeeper managed to neutralize all their shots and free-kicks.
As the teams entered the penalty shootout, the Vietnamese men just repeated the mistake of their female counterparts, who lost 3-4 to Taiwan in the women’s football semifinals last week. The Vietnamese women had targeted to win the gold medal at this year’s Games.
Vietnam’s Nguyen Quang Hai and Tran Minh Vuong wasted their chances, while goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung lost the magic that helped him keep a clean sheet for five straight matches until the semifinals, allowing UAE to win the shootout 4-3 and secure the bronze medal.
Despite the undeserving defeat, Vietnamese supporters still hold their faith for the football squad in their future endeavors as the fourth-place finish at Asia’s biggest playground is already a historic feat for the country.
In the final match taking place two hours later, South Korea beat Japan 2-1 in extra time to successfully defend their championship.