Vietnam and Japan target top group spot in Asian Games 2018

By Lam Thoa   August 18, 2018 | 03:34 pm GMT+7

Ahead of their last group stage match at the Asiad 2018 men’s football tournament, both Vietnam and Japan are confident.

Their confidence before the decisive game for top spot in Group D on Sunday comes from the way in which they’ve taken full points in their previous matches.

For Asiad 2018, Japan has only brought along its U21 team, with an eye on the 2020 Olympics.

Vietnam, meanwhile, has not made many changes from the squad that reached the finals of the U23 Asia Football Championship (AFC) earlier this year, except for the addition of three experienced players above 23.

Therefore, Vietnam’s coach Park Hang-seo has set his team the goal of finishing above Japan and securing top spot on the table.

Coach Park Hang-seo instructs Vietnams men football team during a training session at Asiad 2018 in Indonesia. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Coach Park Hang-seo instructs Vietnam's men football team during a training session at Asiad 2018 in Indonesia. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

“We are analyzing carefully our opponent, Japan. The whole team will put everything in this last match, despite the fact that we have already advanced to the next round,” Park said.

His Japanese counterpart, Moriyasu Hajime, said the same thing. “We put our maximum effort in each game. Japan will prepare everything to win three points in this match,” he told VnExpress.

Japan is the first team to advance to the round of 16. After a solitary goal against Nepal, Japan went on to beat Pakistan 4-0. “We netted four goals against Pakistan but still made some mistakes and the players will have to improve in the game with Vietnam,” Hajime said.

Moriyasu Hajime, the head coach of Japans men football team at Asiad 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Moriyasu Hajime, the head coach of Japan's men football team at Asiad 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Japan's men football team was crowned champion at Asian Games in 2010 while Vietnam's best result at the tournament was entering group of 16. It won top group position for the first time at the previous edition in 2014.

For Vietnam, main striker Nguyen Cong Phuong had been receiving some feedback and advice from coaching assistant Lee Young-jin after missing two penalties in the first match against Pakistan.

In the second game against Nepal, Phuong was left on the bench until the 73th minute, when Vietnam was leading 2-0. He did not perform well in the rest of the match. Lee has told Phuong to be more “determined and focused, be confident and get the ball into the opponent’s box more often.”

Nguyen Cong Phuong performs a penalty for Vietnam at an Asiad match against Pakistan on August 14. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Dong

Nguyen Cong Phuong performs a penalty for Vietnam at an Asiad match against Pakistan on August 14. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Dong

Vietnam currently has six points and +5 goal difference, and is tied on points with Japan. If their match ends in a draw, Vietnam and Japan will have to take a penalty shootout to decide the Group D top spot.

Mixed feelings?

Meanwhile, after a surprise defeat against Malaysia, South Korea has dropped into the second place in Group E. South Korea has been considered among the stronger teams at the sports event, as the country was runner-up at Asian Games 2002 and entered the quarter finals in 2014.

According to the game schedue, if Vietnam takes the top spot in group D, it will clash against one of the four best second-runners of six groups. Then there's a chance that Vietnam will meet South Korea in the next round if the latter loses to Kyrgysztan in the last match of group E on Monday.

This can put South Korean head coach of Vietnam in a tricky situation. On form, Vietnam topping the group would have avoided a clash against South Korea, his home country.

But Park told reporters at Asiad that in case Vietnam cannot avoid South Korea, he will do everything to make Vietnam win. "I am Vietnam's coach, I care more about Vietnam's results."

 
 
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