Vietnam faces upperdog pressure at 2020 AFC U23 Championship

By Hoang Nguyen   January 7, 2020 | 04:49 pm PT
Vietnam faces upperdog pressure at 2020 AFC U23 Championship
Nguyen Quang Hai takes a shot at Vietnam vs Thailand match in the AFC U23 Championship qualification round, Hanoi, March 26, 2019. Photo by Xuan Binh.
No longer underdogs, Vietnam face the added pressure of being a favorite at the upcoming Asian Football Federation (AFC) U23 championship.

The governing body of the tournament that begins Wednesday has also said that the clash between Vietnam and the UAE on Friday is among five AFC U23 games to look out for.

Listing Vietnam as "one of the favorites," an association statement also says that the match will be interesting in terms of demonstrating how Nguyen Quang Hai and his teammates deal with the added pressure.

"The Golden Stars have enjoyed a remarkable rise since their runners-up finish two years ago, winning the 2018 AFF Cup and reaching the last eight of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 as they continue to go from strength to strength," the AFC wrote on their website.

The association did not rule out a Vietnam victory even though UAE is the stronger team.

"The Emirates have traditionally produced stronger teams than Vietnam, but should the Southeast Asians add a U23 victory to their senior side's success, it could well signal a shift in power as Park Hang-seo's team aim to continue their upward trajectory."

Other notable matches include Thailand vs Bahrain on Wednesday, China vs Uzbekistan on January 12, Qatar vs Japan and Uzbekistan vs South Korea, both on January 15.

Before going head to head at AFC U23 Championship this year, Vietnam and UAE played a friendly in Ho Chi Minh City in October 2019. The match ended with a 1-1 draw. In 2018, Olympic Vietnam lost 3-4 to Olympic UAE in a third-place playoff via a penalty shootout.

The AFC U23 Championship 2020 will be hosted in Thailand. Vietnam's first game, against UAE, will start at 5:15 p.m. on Friday and will be reported live.

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