The 2018 AFC U-23 – the Tournament of BELIEF by Football Tribe Vietnam

by Trung Nguyen, Chief Editor of Football Tribe Vietnam

Miracle rarely happens.

In the beginning of 2018, we experienced it several times. Since the moment the ball flew off from that left foot of U-23 Vietnam’s Quang Hai and made a miraculous curve into U-23 Korea’s net, a fire of belief was lit up.

Unfortunately defeated in the first match of the group stage, Coach Park Hang Seo’s boys created another incredible performance, which resulted in a win against the champion contender Australia; and back it up with a hard-fought draw against Syria. Going to the tournament with the target of 1 point during the group stage, surpassing everyone’s prediction, the young men are through to the quarter-final.

Against Iraq, many thought “this is as far as they can go; Vietnam will be crushed”. As I’m writing this, I still got goose-bump remembering Van Duc ’s equalizer in the extra-time and the heroic penalty shoot-out performance of GK Bui Tien Dung. That night, the country was not sleeping. Flags are flying high, men and women are marching on the streets, flares were lit, the whole nation was bathed in pride and happiness.

The semi-final was another miracle. Qatar took the lead, twice. I don’t want to give credit to any individual, as the result was the effort of the whole team. But, man! That second equalizer from Quang Hai, that first touch to get past the first defender, that magical hip turn and the second touch to skip other two, that bend to put the ball to the furthest point inside the post. To me, that was the goal of the tournament, of the year 2018. Getting through 120 minutes, we all already knew the final is ours, as Bui Tien Dung was born for PK shoot-outs.

The final will be remembered forever by every Vietnamese people who watched it. It will be remembered because of the snowstorm that created a white stadium – something that many Vietnamese people never saw in their lives. It will be remembered because of the most beautiful scene, where three of our players (including our captain) using their bare hands to dig snow around the ball, creating the best possible condition, so that Quang Hai could create a Maradona moment to equalize. It will be remembered by the 119th-minute goal that ended our dream to once bring home the championship trophy. It will be remembered by the gesture of defender Duy Manh: to stand a Vietnam flag on a heap of snow and bow in front of it before leaving the stadium.

U-23 Vietnam finished second in the tournament, but they were the champions in every Vietnamese and many South East Asian hearts. It has been so long since the last glorious moment, there have been so many negative heartbreaking moments and Vietnamese have started to lose faith in the national football. Six matches, one team, we once again believe.

Feel the Passion


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