Vietnam upsets Greek champs Olympiakos

May 15, 2009
Midfielder Quang Hai celebrates after scoring the only goal in the friendly match against Greek champions Olympiakos in Hanoi Thursday

The national football team adorned its cap with another feather Thursday, defeating Greek champions Olympiakos 1-0 at Hanoi’s My Dinh Stadium in front of more than 10,000 spectators.

Just before the match began, President Nguyen Minh Triet met with players of both teams.

The national team had lifted itself to high spirits to draw fully on the home soil advantage, making up for their smaller physical stature with confidence as they confronted their European rivals.

Coach Henrique Calisto had announced a 4-5-1 formation, and he stuck to the strategy of counterattack.

The strategy proved effective as the midfielders of the home team helped control the match better and minimized attacks from the visitors.

All the players fulfilled their tasks very well, especially the defenders and goalkeeper Dinh Hoang La was outstanding in providing more support to the frontline.

Both teams had their chances in the first half. Olympiakos players tried to shoot from a distance, but were wide off the target most of the time. Only one came close.

The home team created several close scoring chances but failed to convert any.

The second half was a different story, especially as the match drew to a close. Both teams played faster and the scoring chances became clearer.

The home team players launched repeated attacks with about 10 minutes to go, and ace midfielder Quang Hai came close to the goal twice. The second time, in the 83rd minute, he collected a neat pass from Dinh Hoang Max from the right flank, turned and fired a shot that deflected off an Olympiakos defender, leaving substitute goalie Pavel Kovac who replaced the experienced goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis in the early minutes of the second half, completely stranded.

After conceding the goal, Olympiakos players, who seemed to be a bit overconfident, especially in the first half, played more attacking football, but it was too late.

This is the first time the national team has come together this year, and the players acquitted themselves well. The absence of more than half the squad that won Vietnam the ASEAN Football Federation Cup for the first time last year gave the opportunity for new faces to prove themselves.

Calisto has probably chosen some more good players for the national team. He also used the right players in the right places and exploited their strengths well.

Calisto had earlier lifted all the pressure from his players by saying the final score was not important, that the focus was on performance.

His ideas and words seemed to hit the mark as the players played to their potential.

The victory is clearly a boost for the home team and fans nationwide. It indicates that Vietnamese players have learned to move forward toward a brighter future.

Speaking after the match, Calisto said: “The Vietnamese team played very well in this match. I am very pleased with their performance and spirits. We should be proud because we have seen the national team with national pride in their hearts.

“The team attacked a lot, but it is a pity that there was only one goal. I would like to thank everyone because they all deserve to be praised. Each player satisfied my expectations. The team will have more outstanding players and it will be stronger.”

Meanwhile, Olympiakos coach Ernesto Valverde said his players played better than the home team, especially in the second half, but they were just unlucky.

However, Valverde also said Vietnam has impressed and surprised him.

Reported by Huu Tho – Lan Phuong

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