Vietnam kept their hope of securing a place in the Round of 16 of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup alive as they beat Yemen 2-0 to finish third in Group D in the UAE on Wednesday.
A superb Nguyen Quang Hai free-kick and a penalty from Que Ngoc Hai placed Vietnam among the best third-place finishers capable of being awarded a berth in the next round, while blowing Yemen out of the continental competition.
The Golden Stars fell just short of a 3-0 win so they would have booked a spot in the Round of 16 without having to wait for results of the last round of group-stage games tonight, January 17, to find out about their fate.
Vietnam and Yemen both entered Wednesday’s game with zero points, but the Golden Stars held a higher chance of progression thanks to a better goal difference.
While their task was to beat their opponents from the Arabian Peninsula by at least three goals clear, the Vietnamese players failed to exhibit an impressive performance in the better part of the first half, as they were apparently exhausted from the two previous games against the continent’s strong rivals Iraq and Iran.
Vietnam were finally able to take pressure off their shoulders in the 38th minute, when Quang Hai curled a jaw-dropping free-kick outside the penalty box to take the lead, which remained when the referee blew the whistle at half-time.
The second half saw Vietnam launch more attacks on the Yemeni side as they strived to meet the three-goal-clear target.
The Vietnamese came just one step closer to that target when Van Duc was fouled by Abdulaziz Al-Gumae in the box, and Vietnam’s captain Que Ngoc Hai did not waste the penalty kick in the 65th minute.
While Vietnam were able to keep their hope of qualifying for the knockout stage alive with the 2-0 win, they still have to wait for results from the Lebanon - North Korea clash in Group E and Oman - Turkmenistan in Group F.
Bahrain and Kyrgyzstan have already advanced as the third-place finishers of Group A and Group C, respectively.
Palestine of Group B, Oman of Group F, Lebanon of Group E and Vietnam now stand a chance of grabbing the last two tickets.