Vietnam among national football squads that surprised the world

By Nguyen Quy   December 30, 2019 | 05:09 pm PT
Vietnam among national football squads that surprised the world
Vietnamese player Nguyen Tien Linh (C) reacts after scoring against UAE at the World Cup qualification match in Hanoi, November 14, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Duong.
FIFA has listed the Vietnamese men’s football team as one of 12 national teams that surprised the world this year with their historic achievements.

The Vietnamese men made history by entering the 2019 AFC Asian Cup quarterfinals and won three consecutive qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the international football governing body said.

Last January, Vietnam beat Jordan to enter the Asian Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 2007, but their dream run ended with nail-biting 0-1 loss to Japan. 

Under the reign of South Korean coach Park Hang-seo, the team also surprised many with their performance in the qualification for the 2022 World Cup, winning three consecutive matches against Malaysia, Indonesia and the UAE.

Vietnam started the qualifiers in September with a goalless draw against Thailand, before edging Malaysia 1-0 at home at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi. It went on to beat Indonesia 3-1 in Bali. With a 1-0 victory against UAE at home, the team has climbed to top of the Group G with 11 points.

The Vietnamese team finished 2019 at 94th in the world ranking, 14th in Asia and 1st in Southeast Asia, with a score of 1,258 points. It was their highest ranking since 2003 and the second-highest ranking ever, after they climbed to 84th in September 1998.

Other teams that surprised the world were the South Korean U20 side who made it to the final of the U20 World Cup and whose midfielder Lee Kangin won the tournament's Golden Ball.

The Italian women's squad were also listed after they won their FIFA Women's World Cup group ahead of Brazil and Australia. They eliminated China in the last-16 round.

Algeria won the Africa Cup of Nations, ending a 29-year title drought and were also the biggest mover in the July world rankings, going up 28 places to reach 40th in the world and fourth in the continent.

The other "surprising" teams mentioned by FIFA were the Netherlands' women's team and the male squads of Qatar, Kosovo, Ukraine, Haiti and Iraq.

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