Vietnam didn’t pull off a ‘miracle win’ against Japan, but they surprised everyone by scoring two goals.

Vietnam, ranked 94th by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), lost 2-4 to Japan, ranked 17th by FIFA, in the first match of Group D of the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Qatar Asian Cup at the Altumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday (June 14).

Despite the loss, Vietnam showed their quality by scoring two goals against Japan, the highest-ranked team in Asia in the FIFA rankings.

Vietnam, coached by Philippe Trousier, fielded a 3-4-3 formation. Nguyen Dinh Bac – Do Hung Hung – Pham Thuan Hai, Phan Thuan Thai – Nguyen Thai Son – Nguyen Thuan Aing – Pham Xuan Maing, Bui Hoang Viet Aing – Bo Minh Trong – Nguyen Thanh Binh, and Nguyen Phillip took the field first.

Japan started in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Mao Hosoya, Keito Nakamura, Takumi Minamino, Junya Ito, Hidesama Morita, Wataru Endo, Hiroki Ito, Shogo Taniguchi, Ko Itakura, Yukinari Sugawara, and Zaion Suzuki made up the starting lineup.

Japan took an early lead. In the 11th minute, goalkeeper Nguyen Phillip failed to clear a corner kick from the left. Sugawara’s subsequent shot was blocked by the defense, but the loose ball was calmly slotted home by Minamino to rattle the net.

Vietnam quickly equalized. In the 16th minute, a corner kick came in from the left, and Nguyen Dinh Bac made a huge dive towards the near post to attempt a backheader. The ball soared high, took an exquisite trajectory, and was sucked into the opposite goal.

Then came the surprise. Vietnam capitalized on a good set piece opportunity to take the lead. In the 33rd minute, Nguyen Dinh Bac sent the ball into the box from a free kick, where Bui Hoang Viet Ainghong got a head on the ball. Goalkeeper Suzuki couldn’t get a hand to it and Pham Thuan Hai rushed in to make a simple finish.

Japan equalized again before the end of the first half. In the 45th minute, Endo delivered a pinpoint pass into the box. Minamino received the ball and fired a low right-footed shot into the corner of the net. It was a stunning multi-goal performance that brought Japan relief.

Eventually, Japan turned the game around. In the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time, Nakamura picked up the ball on the left side of the box and unleashed a stunning right-footed curler into the top right corner of the net. Minamino, who laid off the pass, added an assist to finish with two goals and one assist. Japan went into halftime with a 3-2 lead, extending their multi-goal streak to 11 games.

In the 40th minute of the second half, Japan scored the game-winner. Kubo played a pass to Ueda in the center of the box. Ueda calmly beat his defender and fired a shot that bounced off a defender and deflected into the back of the net.

There was no miracle win for Vietnam. Japan held on for a two-goal victory.

After the match, Vietnamese media outlet Bong Da said, “Vietnam played a brave game against Japan despite being rated much weaker. “When Vietnam scored the equalizer, Japanese goalkeeper Suzuki couldn’t do anything,” said a commentator.

“The more the Vietnamese players played, the more confident they seemed to be. They showed that they are not inferior to Japan,” he concluded in his assessment of the first half.

Although Vietnam was outplayed by Japan in the second half, Bong Da said, “Both teams achieved a satisfactory result.” Vietnam scored two goals against Japan for the first time ever.

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