Vietnam have made it to the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying, having progressed past the second round of AFC qualifiers for the first time ever.
The latest challenge for Vietnam was a home match against Japan, which ended with Japan winning, 1-0, on Thursday, November 11th.
Here we take a look at the match statistics, looking back from the perspective of the Vietnam national team and comparing the game with others in the final round.
Distinctive short passing style with a few long passes as an added accent
The chart above shows Vietnam’s stats on the attack for all five games in the final round so far. In the match against Japan, Vietnam successfully set up a number of plays that led to shots, displaying an aggressive intention of moving the ball toward the goal, even from outside the penalty area.
The biggest difference in this match compared to all other matches in the final round was the use of long passes forward. Although the high rate of short passes remained largely unchanged, and the style of connecting passes continued as before, in the match against Japan there was a noticeable increase in long passes forward from the center backs. In particular, the number of long passes forward from centrally-positioned captain Que Ngoc Hai (Viettel FC, 28 years old) actually tripled (8 passes) compared to the average of the previous four games (2.6).
Looking to make the most of the driving force of the two top talents, Nguyen Tien Linh (Binh Duong FC, 24 years old) who has been a main goal threat for Vietnam, and Nguyen Cong Phuong (HAGL, 26 years old) who played with Mito HollyHock in the past, the team intentionally tried to get passes behind the Japanese defenders, providing an additional accent to the attacking style that Vietnam has shown so far.
Although they were prevented from scoring by Maya Yoshida and others in front of the goal, it was an attacking style that showed great potential and occasionally caught the Japanese defenders off guard.
Key attack player Nguyen Quang Hai and ace Nguyen Tien Linh highlight their skills
In the pre-match article (https://www.jleague.jp/news/article/21007/) Nguyen Quang Hai (Hanoi FC, 24 years old) was flagged as one of the team’s key players. In the match against Japan, he suffered five fouls from opposing players, the most for any player on either team (also the most among the five matches Vietnam has played in the final round).
This demonstrates that the Japanese team was well aware of the dangers posed by this exceptionally talented left-footed player. An analysis of Nguyen Quang Hai’s play demonstrates that in this game he played in the middle third the most out of all five final-round matches. It can also be seen that he played in the team formation in a position slightly further back than before, leading the game from behind.
Vietnamese ace Nguyen Tien Linh, who has consistently scored goals in both the second and final rounds, was not intimidated by the strong Japanese defenders, highlighting his skills on several occasions. Right from the start, 10 minutes into the first half, he turned and dodged Maya Yoshida, playing with the Japanese defenders and eventually taking his own shot through the middle. Then, 19 minutes into the second half he demonstrated his dazzling talent, with one of his signature moves, breaking through from the back to cause some danger in the front line.
Ultimately, Tien Linh tied for the highest number of dribbles on his team, with notable forays into the attacking third including a dynamic move five minutes into the second half and an impressive burst forward nine minutes later. Although Tien Linh has failed to score in three consecutive games in this final round, he illustrated his attacking qualities in this match to Japanese fans and is definitely a player to watch in the future.
Displaying a positive stance and only conceding 1 goal – does this bode well for Vietnam’s future?
The most positive element of the game for the Vietnam team was their defensive performance, which is clear in the statistics. In the final round matches up to now, Vietnam has often found itself pressured throughout the 90 minutes, with the five defenders having to spend a lot of time forming blocks side by side. This inevitably weakened the team’s attack vector, but they displayed a positive posture in the match against Japan.
Looking at the average line for ball-winning in the first and second halves, there was a noticeable forward trend, particularly in the first half of the game against Japan. The difference is even clearer when comparing the ball-winning line to those in the games against strong opponents like Australia, against which Vietnam also lost by a single goal, and Saudi Arabia, against which Vietnam was under constant pressure. The fact that this line was relatively high is equally evident from the fact that the number of through passes received was the second highest out of the five games.
Another statistic that was noteworthy against Japan was the team’s ball recovery; the number of times the ball was lost only to be regained within five seconds was the highest out of all five of Vietnam’s games. One of the factors behind why Vietnam were able to withstand the higher-ranked Japanese team and concede only one goal was thanks to a compact defensive formation that boosted their position to win the ball, and increased the number of times they were able to regain control immediately after it was taken.
Will Vietnam earn their first points in the final round?
Just before the match against Japan, Vietnam announced that it had extended the contract of manager Park Hang-seo. The team also made their mark against a Japanese team that has many players who play in Europe, and their play also showed that they have real potential to win points in the final round for the first time in their history.
Next, Vietnam welcomes the leading team in Group B, Saudi Arabia, to their home, while Japan flies to Oman with revenge on their mind after losing 1-0 in September.
(Text/data by Data Stadium Inc.)