As the reigning runners-up, Vietnam aim for a place among the top two teams in the group to progress to the quarter-finals, but it will not be an easy task as all the 16 teams in the finals are among the best in Asia.
In the same tournament China hosted two years ago, Vietnam were also in Group D which was considered the “group of death” alongside Korea Republic, Australia and Syria. However, the young Golden Stars under head coach Park Hang-seo performed a miracle as they collected four points and ranked second in the group thanks to a resounding victory over Australia and a hard-fought draw with Syria. They continued their impressive run in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, beating Iraq and Qatar respectively on two penalty shootouts to book a place in the final, before losing 1-2 to eventually champions Uzbekistan in the last minute of extra time.
In next year’s tournament, Vietnam will be in Group D which is considered a relatively favourable one compared to last years, as well as to other groups in the Thailand 2020 Finals. Vietnam’s senior team with many U23 players beat Jordan in a penalty shootout in the Asian Cup 2019’s knockout stage, along with narrowly losing to UAE also on the spot in the third-placed play-off match of the Asian Games 2018. Against the familiar foes, it is not quite an impossible mission for Park and his players to collect at least four points as in 2018 to progress to the quarter-finals next year.
Vietnam proved their strength as the reigning runners-up as they passed the qualifications for the tournament in Thailand next year by winning all three matches in Group K against Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei last March, scoring 11 unanswered goals to sound a warning that they are determined to win the title next year.
The 2020 AFC U23 Finals draw results. (Photo: AFC)
Elsewhere, hosts Thailand fell into a tough group with debutants Bahrain, Australia and 2013 champions Iraq. Group B is also considered to be unpredictable, with the presence of Syria, 2018 third finishers Qatar, 2016 champions Japan and runners-up in 2013 Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan will defend their title from last year in Group C with Korea Republic, China and Iran.
The biennial tournament will kick-off on January 8 across four stadiums – Chang Arena (Buriram), Rajamangala (Bangkok), Thammasat (Pathum Thani) and Tinsulanonda (Songkhla) – with the final to be played at Rajamangala on January 26.
Besides the title, 15 of the 16 teams will also be competing for places in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where the top three sides will join hosts Japan as Asia’s representatives next July. If Japan are one of the leading three nations then the fourth-placed team will qualify.
According to the seeding system, Vietnam will open their 2020 AFC U23 Championship campaign with their opening match against UAE, followed by the next two against Jordan and DPR Korea, respectively.
- Germany crash out of World Cup at group stage in seismic shock
- More Penalties awarded at Russia World Cup than the whole Brazil Group Stage
- Russia 2018, Group F: Defending champion Germany eliminated from group stage of World Cup
- Watch: World Cup 2018 – Last matches of group stage, blindfolded guesses in St Julian’s
- World Cup champions' curse? Germany latest to fall victim after shock group stage elimination
- Predicting the World Cup group stage
- All of the possibilities for the last day of the group stage
- World Cup: Previewing the Group Stage Finales
- Germany join list of defending champions dumped out in group stage
- World Cup 2018: Five lessons learned from the group stage