Despite Kim Sang-sik's men having their fair share of chances, Iraq's star power proved why they are among the top teams on the continent, and favorites to qualify for football's biggest tournament in two years.

Vietnam losses 1-3 to Iraq in the second round of the AFC qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. (Photo: VFF)

Two long range shots from Hussein Ali and Ali Jasim gave the home side a comfortable lead, before a volley from outside the box by Pham Tuan Hai pulled one back for Vietnam. Aymen Hussein stopped any comeback hopes scoring in added time to seal Iraq's 3-1 victory, and their 100% record in the group stage.

Earlier on in the day, the miracle did not happen, as Vietnam's chance to progress through to the third round were shut down by Indonesia's 2-0 victory at home against the Philippines.

The match against Iraq then gave a chance for both teams to give playing time to substitutes, as well as seeking a victory in the final game of the second round.

After Nguyen Van Toan's suspension, Coach Kim replaced him with Khuat Van Khang, while Vu Van Thanh replaced Pham Xuan Manh on the right wing. Captain Đỗ Hùng Dũng was rested and replaced by Nguyen Duc Chien.

Iraq's Jesus Casas also rested key players such as striker Aymen Hussein.

Casas's team, with the home advantage and clear favorites, pushed on in the opening minutes, piling on enormous pressure on the Vietnamese defense.

But the opening goal for the home side came not from a delicate link up play inside the box, but rather, a rare but wonderful effort from outside 30 meters. Hussein Ali's powerful shot stunned Filip Nguyen and brought Iraq the opening goal just inside 13 minutes.

Four minutes later, the men in white had their chance to double the lead, after a stray pass from Van Thanh forced Filip to rush out and seemingly brought down an Iraqi player. The referee quickly pointed to the spot, where Mohanad Ali's penalty kick went just wide at the post.

Breathing a sigh of relief, the Vietnamese slowly reclaimed their composure and had plenty of great chances. In the 41st minute, Duc Chien's clever long range pass found Van Thanh free on the right side. However the right-back could not control the ball well and the chance was wasted.

Three substitutions were made after the break by coach Kim, after a dismal first half: Hung Dung replaced Duc Chien, Pham Xuan Manh replaced Van Thanh and Tuan Hai replaced an injured Van Khang. Another substitution was made in the 58th minute with Dinh Thanh Binh came on for the enigmatic Nguyen Quang Hai.

Just ten minutes after he was brought on, Thanh Binh made impact after a great control of a teammate's pass. The striker tried to latch onto the Iraqi defense, but was brought down by a defender inside Iraq's box. The referee waived away the penalty calls in the disbelief of the Vietnam coaches.

However, in the 71st minute, Iraq seemingly sealed the game with another super strike from Ali Jasim. The midfielder's shot from outside the box hit Hoang Duc  and deflected into Filip's net, shocking the Czech-born goalkeeper.

A hope for at least a draw shined briefly in the 84th minute, as Tuan Hai scored a wonderful volley from outside the box to bring the deficit to just one goal for the men in red. The joy lasted for a mere eight minutes, as another long strike from Iraq hit the post and went to Aymen Hussein, who only had to tap in the empty net to make it 3-1 for Iraq.

With these results, Iraq and Indonesia progress to the third round of the World Cup qualifying tournament, and also qualified for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Vietnam are out of the World Cup, and may well face a tough draw in the next qualifying round of the Asian Cup.

Source: VNA