Strengths – Vietnam have good technical skills and excellent teamwork. This skill and cohesion allows the team to transition from defence to attack very fast, making them extremely dangerous on the counter-attack. In addition, spirits are high in the Golden Dragons’ camp after they were recently crowned as the champions of the 2018 AFF Cup.
Weaknesses – Injuries and exhaustion will be the major issue for Vietnam in this match, as most of the team has been played throughout the year without any rest period. In addition, the finishing of strikers has also raised concerns for coach Park Hang-Seo. The side is yet to find a reliable replacement for AFF Cup main striker Nguyen Anh Duc, who was not selected for this tournament.
Player to Watch (with explanation) – Nguyen Quang Hai
Vietnamese fans have high expectations for this 21-year-old player after he received the MVP award in AFF Cup 2018. This will be his very first Asian competition with the National Team, and a major step in his development. So far, Quang Hai has shown his ability to handle the pressure of being a talisman for the national team, but his status as South East Asia’s most exciting talent will be solidified if he puts in a good showing at the continental tournament.
Strengths – After winning the competition in 2007 and finishing fourth five years ago, Iraq have pedigree at the highest level and will up for the challenge yet again. Slovenian coach Srecko Katanec has promised that his squad won’t be lacking in motivation, and that is sure to mean that Iraq will be an exciting side to watch.
Weaknesses – Iraq have brought a relatively inexperienced side to this tournament. Most of their key positions are occupied by young players who featured in AFC U23 Championship last year.
Player to Watch (with explanation) – Mohanad Ali (striker) – Despite being only 18 years of age, he has already scored 6 goals for the NT. He will be the most promising player for Katanec’s side in this group, and his development will be watched keenly.