Japan secured a place in the quarterfinals of the 2007 Asian Cup when they outclassed Viet Nam 4-1 in their final Group B encounter at Ha Noi’s My Dinh Stadium yesterday.
|Viet Nam's goalkeeper Duong Hong Son (left) fights for the ball with Japan's striker Naohiro Takahara|
Despite the hammering, Viet Nam is also through to the quarterfinals, its first time ever, thanks to the draw between the other two Group B members, UAE and Qatar.
In last night’s game, the host side took a surprising lead seven minutes into the first half thanks to an own goal by Keita Suzuki, but Seichiro Maki leveled the score four minutes later with a near-post finish then Yasuhito Endo doubled the lead with a swerving free-kick from the edge of the box.
Shunsuke Nakamura added his team’s third goal with an impressive shot from outside the box before Maki grabbed his second to seal the night’s victory for the defending champions.
The win seemed comfortable in the end yet it was anything but for much of the opening exchanges.
Vietnamese defender Huynh Quang Thanh, who had scored a crisp goal in the first Group B game against the U.A.E, swung a cross from the right flank towards Nguyen Vu Phong in the third minute, but the midfielder failed to connect with the ball.
The host side were handed the opening goal four minutes later when a left corner kick from Nguyen Vu Phong bounced off the Japanese defender Keita Suzuki and flew into the net.
The jubilation was short lived. Soon after the opener, tens of thousands of Vietnamese fans were stunned into silence when Nakamura ran past Vietnamese center defender Nguyen Huy Hoang on the left wing and delivered a nice pass to Maki, who finished from his chest to net the equalizer.
Viet Nam nearly regained the lead in the 19th minute when Vu Phong picked up a cross from Phan Van Tai Em and curled it off the inside of his boot from outside the box, but the ball passed narrowly wide of keeper Kawaguchi’s right post.
Japan dominated the match from then on with their sound one-two combination and skillful moves. They made it 2-1 after 30 minutes when Endo bent a delicate free kick from the edge of the box that squeezed past the diving keeper Duong Hong Son and winger Phung Van Nhien.
The defending champions needed only eight minutes after the break to double their lead when Endo sent a nice pass to Nakamura, who blasted a world-class shot into the top left corner of the net from 20 meters out.
Japan’s last word came in the 60th minute when Endo’s free kick from the left found Maki, who grabbed his second goal of the night with a header from near the post.
|Vietnamese fans celebrate on Ho Chi Minh City's streets (Photo: H.U.)|
Even after the scorers Endo, Maki and Nakamura were replaced to rest for the knockout stage, the visitors still looked the better side with Takahara and Kengo Nakamura shooting wide before Nhu Thanh nearly turned Koki Mizuno’s cross into his own net.
The disappointed home fans, however, were in full voice in the dying minutes when they learned that the UAE had come from behind to draw with Qatar, giving Viet Nam a birth in the final eight of the tournament.