BANGKOK (AFP) - Vietnam upset the United Arab Emirates in their opening Asian Cup game Sunday while tournament favourites Australia found out the hard way what football on the continent is all about.
The unfancied Vietnamese, who were widely tipped to be the Group B whipping boys, shocked Gulf Cup champions UAE with a 2-0 victory, courtesy of second half goals from defender Huynh Quang Thanh and striker Le Cong Vinh.
Playing at Asian Cup level for the first time in nearly 50 years, they opened the scoring in the 63rd minute and made it 2-0 10 minutes later, sending a packed house at the the My Dinh National Stadium into a frenzy.
"The first goal won the game," said Vietnam's Austrian coach Alfred Riedl.
"Basically we were lucky because the UAE were obviously upbeat after the Gulf Cup. But our players decided everything. It was a good start."
The UAE's French coach Bruno Metsu paid tribute to Vietnam, but said his side were not out of it yet, pointing out that they lost their opening game at the Gulf Cup in January before bouncing back to win the tournament.
"I am not surprised, they played a fantastic game," he said.
"We missed many opportunities to score. After half time, I think small details changed the game but football is football."
In Bangkok, Australia had Everton star Tim Cahill to thank.
His 90th minute goal saved the Socceroos' blushes against an Omani side they were expected to beat.
The injury-time strike to salvage a 1-1 draw in driving rain kept their maiden Asian Cup campaign alive with Thailand and Iraq also sharing honours in Group A on Saturday.
Coach Graham Arnold admitted his star-studded team were lucky.
"I'm relieved and distressed. We just got out of jail," he said.
"It shows how difficult Asia is. It shows that we need to push ourselves to the limit."
He team spent 10 days acclimatising in Singapore before the tournament, co-hosted by Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, but struggled to get to grips with the sapping Bangkok heat.
"Some players lost four or five kilos out there, but they gave it everything. The players are dead," said Arnold.
Oman, ranked 74 and playing against the Australians for the first time, frustrated their 48th-ranked opponents and took the lead in the 32nd-minute through Badar Mubarak.
The striker finished off great work on the left by Imad Ali who found his man in space with the Socceroo defence pulled out of shape.
Mubarak smashed home past Mark Schwarzer's right hand and the Oman team celebrated by grouping in front of a contingent of Australian fans and orchestrating Muslim prayers to boos.
The Middlesbrough keeper was Australia's saviour, pulling off some stunning saves to keep them in the game before Cahill, who came on with 30 minutes to go for his first match in four months since injury, rescued his side.
"I have a lot of respect for this goal because the Asian Cup is a massive tournament, there's millions of people here and it's a massively-watched tournament," said Cahill.
"A draw is a massive result for us. I said from the start that our biggest test was going to be Oman and now we can worry about our next game."
On Monday, the second match in Group B kicks off with defending champions Japan facing Asian Games champions Qatar.
|22||Duong Hong Son|
|2||Phung Van Nhien|
|16||Huynh Quang Thanh||58' 63'|
|7||Vu Nhu Thanh||33'|
|3||Nguyen Huy Hoang||78'|
|14||Le Tan Tai|
|12||Nguyen Minh Phuong|
|19||Phan Van Tai Em||25'|
|17||Nguyen Vu Phong||88'|
|9||Le Cong Vinh||73'|
|18||Phan Thanh Binh|
|Coach: A. Riedl|
for Nguyen Minh Phuong 77'
for Phan Thanh Binh 84'
for Le Cong Vinh 90+5'
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