(PICTURE: Huyen and I at My Dinh National Stadium.)
Last week Huyen, me and about twenty foreigners went to My Dinh National Stadium to cheer on the Vietnamese national soccer team against China. The game was a qualifier for the 2011 Asian Cup. Unfortunately Vietnam has already been eliminated from qualifying and thus the stadium was 80% empty. Regardless we saw a really exciting game.
Vietnam put early pressure on China and had a few very close scoring chances. However, China quickly countered and scored two goals before halftime. In the second half, Vietnam came out with a fire that they didn't show in the first half. The Vietnamese team turned up the physicality level of the game and it seemed like a minute didn't pass without a Chinese player dropping to the ground while I Vietnamese player was issued a yellow card. The medical cart came out no less than four times in the second half. If you ask me, the Chinese players have been watching the Italians play too much. In fact, after about the fifth yellow handed out to Vietnam, the refs issued a yellow to a Chinese player for diving.
On one play a Vietnamese player was issued a red card for some apparent foul. Clearly the fans didn't agree. However, playing shorthanded seemed to inspire the Vietnamese. I could go on and write a blog how the Vietnamese historically like to be the underdogs in battle but will only just state the fact that Vietnam dominated the second half once they were down a man. With only fifteen minutes left a Vietnamese player was fouled in the box and issued a penalty kick. The player took the kick and it was saved by the Chinese goalie. However, a Chinese player had entered the box before the kick and the referee granted Vietnam a do-over. The player didn't miss again and Vietnam halved the scored.
In the final few minutes Vietnam had a couple extremely close chances. Twice the ball skidded along the goal line, somehow not going in. In the end, China held on and won 2-1.