Japan find a new gear to pull away from a rejuvenating Vietnam

Vietnam 0 Japan 1

January 24 – A resourceful Japan shed their conservative game plan to defeat Vietnam 1-0 and seal a spot among Asia’s four best as the newly introduced VAR headlined to disallow a goal and award penalty in the first quarterfinal of the Asian Cup. 

Could the Golden Dragons produce one more shock? That was the question on everyone’s lips after their remarkable elimination of Jordan.  The Japanese had yet to bring their A-game to the party, at times labouring to victory in their previous tournament matches winning all by a goal. Tonight theyt stepped up their game in an enthralling encounter to edge Vietnam 1-0.

The Vietnamese have been flying high in the UAE, reaching the last eight of the continental championship for only a second time. In the round of 16 Vietnam edged Jordan on penalties and they carried that confidence into this game, building pressure in the first passages of play and stringing together good passing sequences.

But it was Japan that looked to have taken the lead from a set piece in the 24th minute as captain Maya Yoshida headed low to bundle the ball over the line. In a dramatic twist VAR, introduced for the first-time ever at the Asian Cup, came to Vietnam’s aide, chalking Yoshida’s header off the scoreboard for handball.

The disallowed goal set the tempo higher and the game, which had promised to be a stalemate with the two sides favouring the counterattack, opened up completely. Cong Phuong went on one of his mazy runs to keep the Japanese in check, but they retaliated with aerial force. Vietnam had no outfield players over 180 cm and Takehiro Tomisayu, one of Japan’s towering defenders, tested Van Dam with a powerful header from close range.

The Vietnamese were under enormous pressure from set pieces, but a mix-up in the Japanese back line almost handed Park-hangseo’s team the lead. Goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda just about redeemed himself as Vietnam seemed to lack a cutting edge in the final third. Quang Hai and Van Duc also had sniff at goal, but weren’t clinical in front of goal.

Vietnam tightened up after the interval, but VAR intervened again as the referee awarded a penalty to Japan for a foul on Ritsu Doan inside the box. The goal had become inevitable as the Japanese turned the screw on the Vietnamese. Doan held his nerve to convert the spot kick.

For the first time in the tournament, Hajime Moriyasu’s eleven turned their game up a gear, weaving intricate patterns and accelerating dynamically in Vietnamese territory. Genki Haraguchi became more involved as Japan found their groove, forcing a succession of fine saves from Van Lam, as they abandoned high diagonals for a more direct passing over the ground.

Minamino’s wayward goal form this tournament was on show again when he failed to beat Van Lam after Vietnam clumsily surrendered possession in their own half.  The Vietnamese goalkeeper was quickly becoming his team’s saviour, but at the other end his teammates mustered little or nothing. There was no final hurrah for Vietnam as they ran out of ideas and legs to wrangle the initiative back.

The 2011 Asian champions march on to the last four, but Vietnam will reflect on a splendid tournament with the knowledge that the best is yet to come for their new generation.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1718712576labto1718712576ofdlr1718712576owedi1718712576sni@o1718712576fni1718712576




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