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Vietnam among Asia's best, says coach Park

Changshu: Vietnam coach Park Hang-Seo insists his players have proven their ability against Asia’s elite after reaching the semi-finals of the AFC U23 Championship 2018 with a penalty shootout win over Iraq on Saturday.

Vietnam defeated the former champions 5-3 penalties after an extraordinary 120 minutes of action ended in a 3-3 draw that saw the lead change three times before Park’s players advanced via the shootout.

The win highlighted the progress being made by the Vietnamese, who saw off Australia in the group phase before defeating a nation that won the first edition of the competition and who went on to finish third – and qualify for the Olympic Games – in 2016.

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"I have total confidence in my players, and they proved their capabilities today,” he said. “Even on the physical side they were equal to our opponent.

“In attack, we played very well with two strikers and maybe I will use the same strategy in the next match.”

The switch to a two-man attack saw Park alter the tactics he had used throughout the group phase, where the Vietnamese were praised for their defensive organisation and their ability to hit opponents on the break.

Vietnam led against Korea Republic before slipping to a 2-1 loss to the east Asian giants in their tournament opener before securing a 1-0 win over Australia and a draw with Syria that took them into the last eight of the competition.

"We changed our tactics during the match, especially when Iraq started to use the long passes and crosses,” said Park.

"The Iraq team doesn't press hard as a team, and because of that we knew that we could use the space on the right and left side of the Iraqi defence."

Vietnam’s appearance in the semi-finals is the first time the country has advanced to the last four of the competition, although many of Park’s squad were members of the group that progressed to the last four of the AFC U19 Championship in Bahrain in 2016, where they lost to Japan.

Park and his team will take on Qatar, who defeated Palestine in their quarter-final, on Tuesday afternoon in Changshu with a place in the final at stake.

Photos: AFC