S Korean leader hails Vietnam's amazing U23 Asian Cup run

By Vi Vu   January 27, 2018 | 11:18 pm PT
S Korean leader hails Vietnam's amazing U23 Asian Cup run
South Korean President Moon Jae-in smiles during an interview with Reuters in Seoul, South Korea June 22, 2017. Photo by Reuters
‘I saw real sporting spirit in the blizzard,’ said S. Korean President Moon Jae-in.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has posted on social media to congratulate Vietnam for its success at the AFC U23 Championship, and for the spirit of its young players in the freezing final match on Saturday.

“I saw real sporting spirit in the blizzard,” Moon said in a Facebook post published in Korean on Saturday night, after Vietnam’s defeat to Uzbekistan.

“The spirit reached its peak in the blizzard,” he said, referring to the heavy snow in Changzhou, China, which forced a long break for the snow to be cleared.

That same spirit also won the team the Fair Play Award besides silver medals.

Moon sent “applause” to the team and their South Korean coach Park Hang-seo. South Korea itself finished fourth in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Championship, which gathered 16 teams from across the region.

Vietnam, considered the underdog at the start of the game, has won numerous plaudits by beating top competitors to earn a place in the final. The team defeated Australia 1-0 in the group stage. The players also beat Iraq in the quarterfinals and Qatar in the semifinals, both on penalty shootouts.

In the final, the team came from a goal down thanks to a free kick by the now famous midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai, but lost after Uzbekistan scored the winner in the last minute of extra time.

Although he did not hide his disappointment, Park said his players had performed well and he was proud of them.

He said his team had never played in freezing conditions before, and it had been their biggest challenge.

“We don’t have to keep our heads down because we’ve tried our best,” he said to his team after the match, as some players struggled to hold back their tears.

“In more than 40 years of coaching, this is the tournament I am most proud of,” said Park, who was assistant to Dutch coach Guus Hiddink during the 2002 World Cup where South Korea finished fourth, the country’s biggest achievement.

National pride has swept the country. Reaching the final of an Asian championship is the best achievement ever made by a Southeast Asian team.

Across Vietnam, football fans stormed the streets despite the defeat.

“Victory for Vietnam,” Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam shouted on stage at My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi after the match on Saturday, where he was joined by 40,000 Vietnamese fans to watch the live broadcast.

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