Vietnam are hunting for history as they face Japan in the quarterfinals of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 at the Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai on Thursday.
Park Hang-seo’s young Vietnam squad defeated Jordan on penalty shootouts to book a spot in the last eight of the continental championship where they will come up against Hajime Moriyasu’s Japan who are looking to win their fifth Asian Cup title.
So, let’s take a look at the five key facts ahead of the historic quarterfinal match.
1) Vietnam have done it before!
AFC Asian Cup 2019: Vietnam and their road to the quarter-finals, the story so far
For those who thing this fixture is going to be a mismatch, here is some very recent history to prove how wrong you are. The latest clash between Japan and Vietnam came in the Asian Games 2018 last August and guess which nation came out on top that day? Vietnam!
It was none other than Nguyen Quang Hai who was responsible for scoring the only goal in third minute of the Asian Games group stage fixture which propelled his nation to the top of the standings. Vietnam U-23s went on to reach the semifinals of the competition only losing out to eventual gold medal winners Korea Republic.
Meanwhile, this will be the second meeting between the two sides in the Asian Cup and it was Japan who emerged as the winner in their one and only clash at this stage also far. That day, Japan came back form one goal down to defeat co-hosts Vietnam 4-1 in the 2007 group stages.
2) But it won’t be easy for the Golden Dragons!
Icons of Asia – Japan’s Hidetoshi Nakata
However, it will be a different preposition for the Vietnamese in Dubai on Thursday as Japan are traditionally very strong in the Asian Cup.
The Samurai Blue have won eight of their last nine Asian Cup games and have also been successful in four on the trot at the United Arab Emirates (AUE) overcoming Turkmenistan, Oman, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia so far.
The only match they haven’t won during that period was the 1-1 draw against UAE in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Asian Cup which they eventually lost in the penalty shootouts.
3) Vietnam’s only previous quarterfinal appearance
Vietnam’s only previous venture into the quarterfinal stages of the continental championship came in 2007 when they hosted the tournament jointly with Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Vietnam defeated UAE, held Qatar to a draw and lost to Japan to make the quarterfinals as the second-placed team from their group before going down to eventual champions Iraq in the last eight. It was Iraq captain Younis Mahmoud who netted both the goals at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok that day.
4) Japan dangerous from dead ball situations
AFC Asian Cup 2019: Japan 1-0 Saudi Arabia (Takehiro Tomiyasu 20′)
One area that Vietnam will have to be wary of in the game will be Japan’s ability from set-piece situations.
They have scored 14 goals from set-piece situations since the 2007 AFC Asian Cup — only Iran with 15 goals have scored more from set-pieces during that period.
Their win against Saudi Arabia in the Round of 16 als
It is perhaps no surprise that Vietnam have recorded the lowest possession figures of any team left in the Asian Cup 2019.
They have only had 48.6 per cent of the possession in the four matches they have played so far.
However, with Park Hang-seo setting his team up to be rigid at the back and hurt the opposition on the break, the figure isn’t something that the Vietnamese fans should be worried about.
(Facts via OPTA)