Vietnam draw easier group for 2020 AFC U23 contest

By Thang Nguyen   September 26, 2019 | 06:02 am PT
Vietnam draw easier group for 2020 AFC U23 contest
The U23 Vietnam team in the blizzard-hit final of AFC U23 Championship in Changzhou, China, January 27, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Khoa.
A draw held on Thursday saw Vietnam join group D with North Korea, Jordan and UAE for the 2020 AFC U23 Championship.

This is the biennial tournament that proved to be a turning point in Vietnamese football two years ago, bringing fans back to the game in a big way.

In January 2018, Vietnam’s U23 men’s team belied all expectations to reach the final of the tournament, at the nation's first outing under South Korean coach Park Hang-seo, now a household name in the country.

According to Asian Football Confederation (AFC) regulations, the drawing ceremony for the tournament began with the group of lowest seeded teams and proceeded to the highest seeded ones.

After group A, B and C were announced, Vietnam ended up in Group D, a relatively comfortable group without any of the region's top teams.

Among three opponents in the group, only North Korea is a mystery for Vietnam, as two teams have never clashed after Park took charge of the U23 team.

The remaining two teams have faced Vietnam in different recent tournaments. UAE beat Vietnam in the penalty shootout of the third-place playoff at Asian Games 2018, after 120 minutes saw the score tied 1-1.

Jordan played Vietnam in the round of 16 of Asian Cup 2019 and lost in the penalty shootout, after drawing 1-1 in 120 minutes.

Vietnam had played well against West Asian teams in the past. At the AFC U23 Championship 2018, they beat Iraq in the quarterfinal and Qatar in the semifinals. At Asian Games 2018, they took down strong opponents like Bahrain and Syria to reach the semifinals.

16 teams to compete in AFC U23 Championship 2020 in Thailand. Graphics by AFC.

16 teams to compete in AFC U23 Championship 2020 in Thailand. Graphics by AFC.

At the upcoming AFC U23 Championship 2020, 16 teams are divided into four groups, and the top two teams from each group will advance to the next round. Three top teams of the tournament will win a slot at the 2020 Olympics. If Japan, the host of Olympics, reaches the semifinals, the three remaining teams will automatically qualify for Tokyo.

The 2020 AFC U23 Championship will take place from January 8 to 26 in Thailand. At the group stage, Vietnam will play UAE on January 10, Jordan on January 13 and North Korea three days later.

Vietnam were the runners-up of the previous tournament in China when they lost 1-2 to U23 Uzbekistan in extra time, playing for the first time ever in blizzard conditions.

Vietnam's journey at AFC U23 Championship 2018. Video by Nhung Nguyen.

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