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Vietnam clobbers China in Lunar New Year upset

Hanoi (AFP) – Vietnam rattled China in a 3-1 upset during a World Cup qualifying match on Tuesday, sparking jubilation among Hanoi crowds as both countries celebrate Lunar New Year.

The surprise win gave Vietnam’s national team their first scalp in the qualifiers after seven straight losses. 

It was also the first time the team defeated China.

Two goals in the first half by Vietnam’s defender Ho Tan Tai and striker Nguyen Tien Linh helped the Southeast Asian underdog set the pace.

The win was sealed in the second half when striker Phan Van Duc scored, prompting cheers from 6,000 local spectators at My Dinh National Stadium.

A consolation goal during the second-half extra time by midfielder Xu Xin could not save China’s slim hope of qualify for the 2022 World Cup — they are nine points below third-placed Australia.

“We always try to gain maximum points when we play our home matches. And fortunately today, we won against China on the first day of Lunar New Year,” Vietnam captain Do Hung Dung told reporters.

Beyond the football field, China and Vietnam are arch-rivals — with tensions spanning trade, land and water disputes.

“Winning over China has always been Vietnam’s aspiration no matter what the match maybe. So I think this match’s result means even more for Vietnam than even its leg in the World Cup,” football fan Nguyen Nam Long told AFP.

Celebrations of the Golden Star Warriors’ triumph were echoed online.

“Winning over China is a billion times bigger than winning other teams,” football fan Dinh Trung wrote on Facebook.

Vietnam is in Group B of the Asian qualifiers and will play their next game at home against Oman on March 24.

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