Yemen have predictably struggled in their first two matches at the Asian Cup, but head coach Jan Kocian insists they are capable of pulling off a shock by beating Vietnam in Al Ain and potentially qualifying for the last 16.
Neither Yemen nor Vietnam have picked up a point in the United Arab Emirates so far, each nation losing their first two Group D matches.
However, both teams know victory at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on Wednesday could well be enough to earn progression as one the four best third-placed finishers in the group stage.
Although Yemen – the lowest-ranked team in the competition – have been thumped 5-0 by Iran and 3-0 by Iraq, Kocian is determined to remain upbeat and has highlighted the mental strength of his squad.
“We are prepared for this game and I believe my players are ready to earn their first win,” Kocian was quoted as saying by the Asian Cup’s official website.
“My players may be a little inexperienced at this level but we are slowly improving. We have to start better against Vietnam, stay focused and play more compact football.
“I know we can play better. The slogan on our team bus reads ‘never give up’, so I believe this will be our chance to shine and put in a good performance.”
Vietnam boss Park Hang-seo is similarly confident ahead of the game, but insists his team will not underestimate opponents sitting 35 places below them in the FIFA rankings.
“Yemen are the same as us, they need the three points,” said Park.
“We’ve done some analysis on their team and they are a good side. But my team’s fighting spirit is stronger than Yemen’s and we can win. Our team will give everything we’ve got to earn the three points.”
Vietnam, who were edged out 3-2 by Iraq before going down 2-0 against Iran, will certainly start as favourites against opponents who have only recorded two shots on target in the tournament.
The 2007 quarter-finalists will be without centre-half Do Duy Manh, who picked up yellow cards in each of his side’s opening group games.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Vietnam – Que Ngoc Hai
Vietnam’s skipper shone in a losing cause as his side were beaten by tournament favourites Iran. In the absence of Manh, the defender is set to take on additional responsibility against Yemen.
Yemen – Ammar Hamsan
After conceding eight goals in their two matches to date, it is clear Yemen must improve defensively in their final group game. Centre-back Hamsan was one of his side’s stronger performers against Iraq, albeit in a 3-0 defeat, and could have a key role to play.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the first encounter at the Asian Cup between Vietnam and Yemen.
– Vietnam will be looking to end a run of four straight losses in the Asian Cup, where they have conceded at least twice in each of those games.
– Yemen have lost both of their matches in the Asian Cup, conceding eight goals and scoring none, while they have fired in just two shots on target across those matches.
– Vietnam have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last five Asian Cup matches, since winning 2-0 versus United Arab Emirates in July 2007.
– After saving his first two shots on target in this year’s tournament, Yemen goalkeeper Saoud Al-Sowadi has since conceded a goal from eight of the last 13 shots on target faced.
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