Battle of familiar foes

Dubai: The AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Round of 16 tie between Jordan and Vietnam will be a meeting of familiar foes but head coach Vital Borkelmans says the circumstances are now different with the stakes much higher.
The two sides met twice in the UAE 2019 Qualifiers, with the matches ending 1-1 and 0-0, but that was before Borkelmans took over the reins from Jamal Ahmad Abu Abed.
“I have seen, with my technical staff, many games of Vietnam. We know they are very strong but we also know their weaknesses,” said the former Belgium assistant head coach.
“As coach, you work on this and I believe in my players. My players are trained at a high level. We’ve worked together for seven weeks now and they are amazing players.
“I have talked to my players many times, ‘Guys, you’ve made this (achievement) with what you did at this moment. You know the Vietnam team, you’ve played two times but that’s history. Now is today, and tomorrow is tomorrow.”
Jordan were the first team to reach the last 16 after stunning defending champions Australia 1-0, beating a resilient Syria 2-0 and playing to a 0-0 draw with Palestine to finish top of Group B.
Despite their impressive group stage campaign, Borkelmans said that won’t mean a thing against Vietnam.
“What happened in the first round is finished for me. For me, it’s now about going to the game against Vietnam. I never look back, only forward.
“This is totally different now, you play three games for the next round, and now you play one game to stay or go home. Tomorrow, two teams from two countries believing in what they have will do anything to go to the next round. It’s totally a different game from this moment.”
Vietnam advanced to the Round of 16 in a more dramatic fashion.
After suffering losses to Iraq (3-2) and Islamic Republic of Iran (2-0) in their first two Group D ties, a 2-0 win over Yemen, coupled with better fairplay points over Lebanon, saw the Southeast Asians advancing as the fourth best third-placed team.
Vietnam last reached the knockout stage in 2007 when they co-hosted the AFC Asian Cup, but with head coach Park Hang-seo at the helm, the Golden Dragons have enjoyed successes over the last 12 months.
They finished runners-up in the 2018 AFC U23 Championship, reached the Asian Games semi-finals for the first time in the country’s history and lifted the AFF Championship title in December.
Jordan will be another test at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, but head coach Park in undaunted by the challenge.
“We have already played strong teams in this competition, such as Iran and Iraq,” Park said.
“Jordan are also well organised and well prepared and that’s why they got first place in their group ahead of Australia.
“Tomorrow’s match is not going to be easy, it will be tough but we will have to maximise our strengths to win. There are no perfect teams in the tournament, and we will find their weakness.
The 60-year-old coach said while there is still work to be done, he is confident Vietnam will be ready for Jordan.
“At this moment, we are not 100 per cent prepared for the match, but we will have a meeting with our technical staff and players tonight.
“However, after analysing two Jordan matches, we can conclude that they were playing with a more aggressive style against Syria and we expect they will do the same with us.
“But if we score first, it will be harder for them.”