One of the surprises of this year’s Asian Cup tournament has been the rise of Vietnam, who now face Japan in the quarter-finals of the competition.

The Golden Dragons qualified for the knockout stages by being one of the best third-placed finishers in the group stage.

Despite this, they surprised many by defeating Jordan in the round of 16, who had progressed undefeated in Group B.

With the match finishing 1-1 after normal time, Vietnam held Jordan throughout extra-time and won the match 4-2 on penalties.

The win was no fluke – Vietnam fired seven shots on target compared to Jordan’s four, while they also held 59% of possession. They certainly showed that they were not just making up the numbers.

Vietnam’s presence in the quarter-finals is an interesting one, as 22 out of their 23 players in the match against Jordan all played their club football in their home country.

The Golden Dragons previously made the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup in 2007, in which they co-hosted the tournament. A win over Japan does not seem likely, however anything is possible in football. Should they produce a miracle, it will be a great story in both Asian and world football.

Vietnam’s squad is a young one – their average age is 23-years-old and Nguyễn Trọng Hoàng is the eldest player at 29-years-old. Many players are still developing, and this will be beneficial for the team in the future. Asian football is growing every year, with nations such as Thailand and Kyrgyzstan only a couple that performed better than expected this tournament.

The team’s top scorer so far in the competition is Nguyễn Công Phượng, who has found the net twice, while captain Quế Ngọc Hải and Nguyễn Quang Hải have also scored.

They are managed by South Korean Park Hang-seo, who made one international cap for his country in 1981 and has previously managed clubs such as Jeonnam Dragons and Gyeongnam FC in South Korea. He has certainly brought excitement to the people of Vietnam and has shown faith in the country’s young players.

The Golden Dragons face a tough prospect in their next match, and it will be no easy feat. Their defence need to be strong and their strikers need to convert their chances, as Japan are one of the strongest team’s in the continent.

We have seen major upsets occur throughout world football and there is every chance that this can occur again.

Japan must not come into the match complacent, otherwise they will be vulnerable to Vietnam’s attack.

This certainly is a match to watch tomorrow.

Tim Sperliotis