The Hanoitimes - The Golden Dragons can leave the Asian Cup 2019 with their heads held high following a series of impressive displays.
FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan believes the future looks exceedingly bright for Vietnam for how far they had experienced at continental tournaments over the past year.
While the dream has ended for Vietnam with the stoppage at the quarter-final stage at AFC Asian Cup 2019 after losing to Japan, the Golden Dragons can leave the United Arab Emirates with their heads held high following a series of impressive performance.
Outstanding members of the Vietnam team. Photo: Footballshirtculture
Their dream came to an end with a narrow 1-0 defeat to continental giants Japan, which only came courtesy of a VAR (Video Assistant Referee)-assisted penalty. An agonising defeat after they had brave displays throughout the tournament.
Surely on the balance of play, Japan were probably superior to Vietnam. But, on the scoreboard, the only difference between a side that has played at the past six FIFA World Cups and one that was only appearing at the Asian Cup for the second time was a solitary spot-kick.
The Vietnamese players, dubbed as the Golden Star warriors, deserve credit for even being in a position to challenge as it was in a tough group consisting of hot favourite Iran, 2007 winner Iraq, and Yemen.
For what they proved in the Asian Cup 2019, Vietnam enhanced their reputation as penalty shootout experts and put Japan on the rock as the Blue Samurais have Europe-based stars like Maya Yoshida, Yuya Osako, and Yuto Nagatomo.
So, as Vietnam head home, there is less speculation and more affirmation. The Vietnamese have proven that they belong to Asia’s biggest stage.
Let the talk continue about how Park Hang-seo continues to get the best out of his talented young side.
Let the talk continue about how the likes of Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Cong Phuong and Doan Van Hau could possibly be good enough to play in Europe in a few years’ time.
Let the talk continue about how Vietnam are – by far – the kings of Southeast Asia in this present moment.
Quang Hai (19) and his playmates. Photo: Foxsports
Before a ball had been kicked at the Asian Cup 2019, there’s no shortage of talk over a possible golden generation that first showed their potential with a runners-up finish at the AFC U23 Championship in January 2018, over the fourth at Asian Games 2018, and winning AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 that ended a decade-long wait to reclaim their status as Southeast Asian champions.