The Golden Star Warriors got an early lead courtesy of Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh, but a red card from Khuất Văn Khang made the match more difficult for Việt Nam.
|TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE: Nguyễn Quang Hải (centre, right) celebrates his added time equaliser for Việt Nam. — AFP/VNA Photo
AL RAYYAN — Việt Nam have lost 2-3 against Iraq in their last match of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
The Golden Star Warriors gained an early lead courtesy of Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh, but a red card from Khuất Văn Khang made the match more difficult for Việt Nam.
With a man advantage, Rebin Sulaka and Aymen Hussein brought back the lead for Iraq, before Nguyễn Quang Hải surprisingly equalised for the men in red in added time. But only seconds before the final whistle, heartbreak came as Hussein completed his double with a penalty kick, sealing the comeback victory for Iraq.
Amid intense pressure and criticism from pundits, Philippe Troussier stayed true to his philosophy, ordering his team to control possession and play on the front foot.
Captain Đỗ Hùng Dũng returned to the starting line-up after being left out in the 0-1 loss against Indonesia, with young starlet Nguyễn Đình Bắc also making a comeback after injury.
With nothing to lose, a confident Việt Nam held on to possession and constantly made plays in the first twenty minutes. The Golden Star Warriors could have gone in front, after Zaid Tahseen put the ball in his own net in the 17th minute. The goal, however, did not stand after VAR interfered and ruled Văn Khang was in an offside position.
However, the efforts of Văn Khang and teammates soon bore fruit. In the 42nd minute, a free kick taken by Khang found Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh free inside the penalty area, who volleyed the ball in Ahmed Basil’s net.
20-year-old Khang, who currently plays for Viettel, turned from hero to zero in the matter of minutes. After a harsh first yellow card for simulation, Khang received his second in the fourth minute of added time due to a high kick.
Khang’s red card put Việt Nam back to playing defensively with a flimsy 1-0 lead after half-time. Jesus Casas wisely ordered crosses inside the box, utilising the height advantage of Iraq over the men in red.
Casas’s read was correct, as the Iraqis found their equaliser just three minutes after the break, courtesy of a free header from Rebin.
Iraq started to bring on their key players in the second half, aiming for a win and a perfect group stage record. One such player was the tournament’s current top scorer, Aymen Hussein, who just six years ago was part of the team that lost to Việt Nam in the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship quarterfinals.
Hussein made a direct impact after coming on by heading Iraq’s second goal in the 71st minute. He could have scored two in the space of ten minutes had he converted the penalty after Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh’s two-footed challenge inside the box but he missed from the spot.
A fatigued Việt Nam had difficulties advancing the ball into the final third, but they kept on trying. In the first minute of added time, a great play from the left wing found Nguyễn Quang Hải through on goal, and the former Pau FC midfielder equalised for Việt Nam.
Just as everyone in the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium was counting down to the last moments of the match, a clumsy tackle from Võ Minh Trọng brought down Youssef Amyn inside the box. Hussein was given his second chance from the spot and he made no mistake this time, sealing the three points for Iraq.
“A defeat in the very final seconds. I am speechless,” said teary-eyed goalscorer Bùi Hoàng Việt Anh.
With this result, Việt Nam exit the 2023 Asian Cup with zero points. Iraq advances as group D winners along with Japan, who finished in second place after beating Indonesia 3-1. Indonesia must wait for the remaining matches to see if they are through as one of the best third-place teams.
The defeat left Philippe Troussier’s men with many regrets and lots of work to do before the remaining matches of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualification in March and June, where bad results could spell doom for the Frenchman’s position as head coach.