Football - January 20, 2019 | 01:12 am PT

Vietnam, Jordan chart contrasting paths to Asian Cup knockout stage

Jordan’s journey was a walk in the park compared to Vietnam getting through by the skin of its teeth.

In the first game of Asian Cup 2019, Vietnam faced Iraq with confidence and even took the lead twice, with contributions from Nguyen Cong Phuong (pictured) in both goals. First, under Phuong’s pressure, an Iraqi defender scored an own goal. In the second one, Phuong got a tap in after Nguyen Trong Hoang’s shot bounced out. Nguyen Quang Hai provided the key passes in both goals.

But Iraq took advantage of mistakes by Vietnam defenders and equalized quickly. In the last minutes, they took full advantage of a difficult free kick to secure a 3-2 win.

In the second game with Iran, the strongest team in group D, Vietnam played focused football and tried not to concede. But Iran showed their class and strength by scoring twice. Although Vietnam had a few chances in the match, they couldn’t covert them.

With zero points after two matches and a goal difference of -3, Vietnam had to win against Yemen in the last game to keep any hope of advancing. And they showed their determination by playing offensive football and creating many opportunities, but couldn’t score. Then, Nguyen Quang Hai’s stunning free kick paved the way for Vietnam’s victory. The second goal was scored by captain Que Ngoc Hai from the penalty spot.

With three points and four goals scored in the group stage, Park’s team had to wait for other matches’ result to know if they can advance, and they had to wait until the very last game of the group stage between Lebanon and North Korea. Vietnamese fans and players had a thrilling night watching that match, after which Vietnam proceeded to the next round thanks to fair-play stats, in this case, one yellow card less than Lebanon.

In contrast, Jordan had an unexpectedly easy journey in the group stage, starting with a surprising 1-0 win against defending champions Australia, despite having only 22 percent possession.

The team proved their ability to make good on fewer chances in the next game against Syria. They only had 34 percent possession this time, but they scored two goals.

In the third game, Jordan and Palestine played a goalless match, and the former ended their group stage journey with seven points and no goals conceded.

It is fitting, therefore, that Vietnam is considered the underdog in tonight's match against Jordan, which will kick off at 6 p.m., Hanoi time.

Story by Duc Dong, Anh Khoa