Coach Park Hang-seo’s players made a shocking win against their strong rivals in the second match of Group D on Sunday. A proper counter-attack strategy and determined defence earned them the compelling victory.
Park kept the same lineups as in the match against the Republic of Korea (ROK) three days earlier with a 5-4-1 formation including Cong Phuong and Quang Hai supporting Duc Chinh in the highest attacking position.
Meanwhile, Australia had several changes compared to their first match against Syria. De Silva, Blackwood and Kamau, three impressive key players in their opening match, were not included in the squad.
Vietnam fought bravely in the match against the ROK and took the early lead by Quang Hai’s goal, but the ROK came from behind to earn a 2-1 win. Meanwhile, Australia beat Syria 3-1 and topped Group D. Vietnam set a target of having at least one point against U23 Australia to raise hopes for a ticket to the next round.
Against the powerhouse Australia, U23 Vietnam actively maintained a counter-attack strategy with a low defensive line to limit the technical and superior form of Australian players.
Coach Ante Milicic’s players were dominant in ball possession with a range of dangerous attacks from the right wing. Meanwhile, Vietnam actively pushed back the formation, but immediately approached Australian players when they had the ball right in the opponent’s field.
U23 Australia soon threatened goalkeeper Tien Dung with a free kick in the 12th minute but the goalie stayed to deny Hrustic’s effort. Ten minutes later, Hrustic again had a left foot kick to deliver the ball narrowly off the post.
After a few minutes under pressure, Vietnam had fought back. In the 33rd minute, striker Cong Phuong had a great chance after a mistake by defender Alex Gersbach. The Vietnamese striker crossed goalkeeper Paul Izzo, but the long ball made him unable to deliver a finish into the empty net.
In the 38th minute, midfield midfielder Quang Hai surprised with the left foot shot that forced goalkeeper Paul Izzo to save U23 Australia. That was the last significant event in the first half.
The second half was the same as Australia controlled a dominant part of the ball possession. Both sides put more tempo to the game with a range of quick attacks. In the 64th minute, Blackwood, who was sent into the field in the second half, put the ball in the back of the Vietnam’s net, but the striker was offside.
Vietnam played safe defence and their counter-attacks were also quite dangerous. In a counter-attack in the 70th minute, Quang Hai earned a corner kick for Vietnam and the team created chaos in front of the Australian box from the corner kick. Midfielder Bui Tien Dung had two chances to finish, but he was not successful. The ball bounced back to Quang Hai and his left foot kick from the outside of the penalty area deflected defender Aleksandar Susnjar into the far corner to beat goalkeeper Izzo. 1-0 for Vietnam U23 in the 72nd minute.
Shocked by the conceded goal, U23 Australia strengthened huge pressure in the remaining minutes in the search for an equaliser. Vietnam’s players played well to block all attacks from the strong opponents. Efforts by the Australian side only resulted in a dangerous attack in the 81st minute but the header from 1m86 tall Blackwood only hit the crossbar.
Key – MP: Matches Played, W: Wins, D: Draws, L: Losses, GF: Goals For, GA: Goals Against, GD: Goal Difference, Pts: Points
Vietnam struggled and they survived to earn their first win in the tournament. The win lifts Vietnam to the second place in Group D with three points after two matches played, while Australia dropped to third place with the same points as Vietnam because the Southeast Asian side had a better head-to-head record. The ROK temporally take the lead also with three points, but they could add more points if defeating Syria U23 in their clash later on Sunday.
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