Vietnam aims to take U21 trophy by beating Iran

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Expectations have risen that hosts Vietnam would ride on their superb performances so far and beat Iran in the final match of the Thanh Nien-sponsored Under-21 International Football Competition 2011 at Pleiku Stadium on Tuesday.

The young Iranian players are no pushover, as they showed in their 1-0 semifinal win over Qatari club Aspire on Sunday.

Iran first participated in the Thanh Nien-sponsored football event in 2008 in Hue and won the trophy after beating Southeast Asian powerhouse Thailand in the final.

The Iranian team at this year's event has excellent players who are very good at converting scoring chances, and could make Vietnamese players pay dearly for their mistakes.

However, the young Vietnamese players have shown they can hold their own and their performances thus far are considered the best at the event thus far by football fans and pundits.

Vietnamese players like Nhat Nam, Duy Thanh, Huu Khoi, Minh Tuan, The Cuong, Van Thanh, Thanh Nam and Xuan Hieu make up a strong team, with all of them having the ability to play attacking football.

Iran's strength is reduced in part because of the absence of central fullback Heidari Masoud who was sent off with a red card in their semifinal match against Aspire.

Vietnam's U21 coach Nguyen Quoc Tuan was upbeat. "Our players will continue to excite the home fans with excellent performances and beat Iran to win the trophy. I believe they can do it," he said.

World famous Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic, technical manager of Aspire, said, "Several players in the Vietnamese U21 team are very fast. They will cause a lot of trouble for Iran. The two teams look as strong but the Vietnamese players are more likely to win the final match because of strong support from home fans."

Meanwhile, Iran's U21 team Akbar Mohammad Argi said, "The Vietnamese players have more advantages than us, but our goal here is to win the championship. Iranian players are prepared to beat the home rivals in the final".

Before the final match at 6 p.m. at the Pleiku Stadium on Tuesday, Thailand and Aspire are expected to fight hard at a 3:30 p.m. match for the third place.

Thailand came to the tournament fancying their chances of winning it, but they lost to Vietnam in a penalty shootout in the semifinals. Now they wouldn't want to go home with empty hands.

The young players from Aspire, on the other hand, would also want to build on their impressive showing a week earlier in a local tournament.

Merit certificates

At the closing ceremony before the final match, the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Hoang Tuan Anh, will present certificates of merit to five individuals for their excellent management of the competition.

The chosen recipients are: Nguyen Cong Khe, chief of the organizing committee and president of Thanh Nien Media Corporation; Nguyen Quang Thong, editor-in-chief of the Thanh Nien newspaper; Dang Thanh Tinh, deputy editor-in-chief of Thanh Nien newspaper and deputy chief of the organizing committee; Nguyen Quoc Phong, member of the editing board of Thanh Nien newspaper; and Tran Quang Tuyen, manager of the sports pages of the Thanh Nien newspaper and member of the standing steering committee for the competition.

The People's Committee of Gia Lai Province will award a certificate of merit to the Thanh Nien newspaper for initiating and organizing the U21 International Football Competition.

The committee will also award certificates of merit to Nguyen Cong Khe, the Hoang Anh Gia Lai Football Club JS Co. and three best teams at the competition.

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