Who the hell is Vietnam’s No. 15?

Japan struggled to contain Vietnam’s No. 15 Nguyen Dinh Bac. Despite winning the match, Japan struggled with Dinh Bac’s speed throughout the first half.

Hajime Moriyasu’s Japan defeated Vietnam 4-2 in the first leg of their Qatar Asian Cup Group D qualifier at the Altumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar on Thursday (July 14). The Japanese were caught off guard by an unexpected turn of events, falling behind 1-2 at one point in the first half.

Japan came out in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Mao Hosoya (Kashiwa Reysol) started up top. Keito Nakamura (Stade Français), Takumi Minamino (AS Monaco), and Junya Ito (Stade Français) formed the second line. Wataru Endo (Liverpool) and Hidemasa Morita (Sporting) joined them in a double bolanch. Hiroki Ito (Stuttgart), Shogo Taniguchi (Alayan), Ko Itakura (Borussia Mönchengladbach) and Yukinari Sugawara (Alkmaar) were the back four. Shion Suzuki (Sint-Truiden) was in goal.

Despite missing four starters in Takefusa Kubo (Real Sociedad), Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal) and Ayase Ueda (Feyenoord), Japan filled nine of its 11 roster spots with Europeans.

Japan opened the scoring in the 11th minute and looked to be on their way to an easy victory. From a corner kick, Sugawara headed the ball out to the right outside the box. The deflection found its way to Minamino. Minamino calmly slotted it home.

But five minutes later, the game changed dramatically. Dinh Bac was playing on the left wing in Vietnam’s 5-4-1 formation. In the 16th minute, he scored a near-magical header off a corner kick. He cut in a short corner kick and sent a back header across the face of the Japanese goal. The ball grazed Dinbak’s forehead and rose high. It flew past Japan goalkeeper Suzuki’s height and then dropped. The far post rattled and the Vietnamese celebrated.

Dinh Bac frustrated Japan in the 32nd minute. She showed off her insane speed on the counterattack. He outpaced Sugiwara and won the ball contest. Sugiura was cautioned for stopping Dinh Bac with a heavy tackle. Vietnam capitalized on the set piece. After floating the ball deep down the right side, Bui Hoang Viet Anh sent a header into the center of the box. Pham Thuan Hai found himself one-on-one with the keeper and slotted home.

Dinbak worked too hard in the first half and was a non-factor in the second, eventually coming off in the 63rd minute. Japan managed to turn it around and make it 3-2 before the end of the first half.

Japan’s second half performance was a little more frustrating. They defended their lead, but didn’t show the same fire they had after the win.

Japan regained some breathing room when they brought on Kubo in the 83rd minute. Kubo came on as a substitute in the 83rd minute with a 3-2 lead. Kubo showed his star quality by recording an assist within a minute of entering the game. Kubo collected the ball just outside the penalty box and slid it to Ayase Ueda (Feyenoord) on the left. Ueda folded to his right to create a shooting angle and then struck it hard into the back of the net.


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