Vietnam have nothing to lose ahead of Asian Cup quarter-final against Japan
The Golden Dragons have exceeded expectations by reaching the last eight of the continental competition
Vietnam are heading into Thursday's Asian Cup quarter-final match against Japan with nothing to lose.
The Golden Dragons' target was to reach the last 16 of the continental championship, which means they have already exceeded expectations - and Park Hang-seo said as much on Wednesday.
“After winning the Suzuki Cup, our objective was to reach the last 16 in the Asian Cup,” the manager said in reference to the subcontinental championship of South-East Asia. “We have achieved both our objectives and we can celebrate - whether we win or lose against Japan."
Park said playing in the Asian Cup had given his young team a wealth of experience, especially considering that they were not blessed with the resources or the history that other teams - notably Japan - had. He even conceded the Blue Samurai were strong favourites for Thursday's game at Al Maktoum Stadium.
“Many believe Japan will beat us, but that’s understandable when you compare the two teams," Park said. “Most of the Japanese players ply their trade in big leagues in Europe and Asia, and it will be a massive challenge for us.
“We are very low behind Japan, but we’ll fight until the end. The preparations have been the same for us - like in every game."
That said, the South Korean manager warned his side were no pushovers.
“We are expecting a hard game of course, but every team has some weaknesses which we can take advantage of. We saw that when Japan played Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The former South Korean international acknowledged Japan's players were far superior to his charges, both physically and technically, but said his players were possibly more agile.
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Much as the Vietnamese players will have Park to thank for their recent achievements, the 60-year-old credited his players for constantly improving on the pitch.
“Vietnam provided me the opportunity and I couldn’t have achieved what we have achieved if not for the players,” Park said. “Obviously my objective is to keep improving Vietnamese football. The country is gradually developing economically and football, too, is developing.
Nguyen Cong Phuong, the Vietnam forward who spent a season on loan at J2 League side Mito HollyHock in Japan, shared his manager’s determination to give the 2011 champions a stiff challenge.
“We want to continue with our journey in the Asian Cup and try our best to win over Japan,” he said. “I know all odds are against us, but we’ll have a go at them.
"We didn’t have much hopes to reach the knockout round after losing the first two games, but we are still here.
“We know it’s massive task but it’s not impossible. It’s another game and if we have to go out, we’ll go down fighting until the end.”
Updated: January 23, 2019 08:23 PM