Vietnam expect to win a quarter-final berth at the Asian Football Confederation U19 Championship in Myanmar although they have been drawn in the "Death Group" of the tournament, players and coaches say.
They said that the team, which arrived in Myanmar on October 5, is ready to overcome all obstacles against continental powerhouses China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (RoK), who make up the other teams in Group C.
Vietnam made a big bang in Asia after knocking out Australia 5-1 to top their qualifying group and secure their ticket to the finals.
The young players have since received strong support to take part in training programmes in Europe and Japan to prepare for the finals. They also played warm-up games in two regional competitions, finishing second in both.
Coach Guillaume Graechen said he believed 100% in his players despite the presence of strong rivals. The Frenchman appealed to the fans not to go overboard over victories and have greater sympathy with failures because the team is nurturing players for the future.
Graechen said Japan were the strongest opponent because they played well as a team and had individuals who could change the course of a game. He felt they would definitely take one of two semi-final tickets, leaving the remaining three teams to fight for the remaining spot.
Japan have been extremely tough rivals for Vietnam, having won all their three encounters thus far. They are bringing to Myanmar nine players in the team that beat Vietnam 1-0 to take the AFF U19 Cup last month.
Coach Suzuki Masakazu has called up many players from J.League 1 and J.League 2 to give the team their best chance at the title.
Vietnam will play Japan on October 11, two days before they face defending champions RoK, who have on their team the "Korean Messi", Paik Seung-ho, a member of Barcelona Juvenil A, Oh Se-joon of Werder Bremen, Kim Shin of Lyon and Kim Dong-soo of Hamburg.
South Korea have dominated the tournament for a long time, winning 12 of its 37 editions.
China also has some very talented players including striker Xiang Baixu, who plays for the Saint-Etienne juvenil team. The 19-year-old received his contract with the French team after only three training days because of his goal hunting skills and an ideal height of 1.88m.
Other players worth watching are midfielders Wei Shihao (Boavista FC, Portugal), Tang Shi (Botafogo, Brazil) and Gao Zhunyi (Kataller Toyama, Japan).
"All of our opponents are very strong, they are all Asia's leading features. However we are not afraid of them and face no pressure in this tournament," said Vietnam captain Nguyen Cong Phuong.
"We have agreed with each other that we would play with all of our capacity and the result will show after the matches," he said.
Graechen said he had collected information and clips of RoK and China. The coaching board had carefully watched and found suitable solutions, he added.
All matches of the Asian championship will be aired live on VTV channels.
Sixteen teams have qualified for the final stage of the tournament. They have been are divided into four groups wherein they will compete in a round robin format. Two best teams from each group will advance to the quarter-final round.
All four teams that make it to the semi-finals would automatically enter the finals of the FIFA U20 World Cup in New Zealand, which will be played May 30-June 20 next year.
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