Coach Troussier needs to reset strategy for World Cup qualifiers: football expert

By Duc Dong   February 11, 2024 | 07:30 pm PT
Coach Troussier needs to reset strategy for World Cup qualifiers: football expert
Coach Philippe Troussier instructs Vietnam players in the match with Iraq in the group D of Asian Cup on Jan. 24, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa
According to football expert Doan Minh Xuong, coach Philippe Troussier should review his Asian Cup failures and change strategies to beat Indonesia at the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

Once a football instructor, coach and youth training expert, what do you think about coach Troussier having put so many responsibilities on young players at the recent Asian Cup?

Not just this Asian Cup, but before that, through friendlies and two World Cup qualifying games with the Philippines and Iraq, we saw that Troussier always prioritizes the use of young players. Phan Tuan Tai, Vo Minh Trong and Nguyen Dinh Bac were always guaranteed a starting spot. Through the tournament in Qatar, we also recognized the progress and efforts of these players. However, I can tell that they were not experienced enough to replace their seniors.

Troussier is creating a transition phase for Vietnamese football, with the goal of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup. But in my opinion, he's rushing. Except for a few players who were injured or did not have good form, the remaining experienced players such as Nguyen Van Toan, Vu Van Thanh, Ho Tan Tai, Do Hung Dung and Nguyen Hoang Duc were rarely used.

Rejuvenation is good, but there must be a clear roadmap for that. For example, maybe give young players the second half, or the last 15 minutes of the match to accumulate experience. Rejuvenation doesn't mean launching a squad with many young players. Without the leadership of experienced players, they are easily overwhelmed. Through three Asian Cup matches, we have seen clearly that the young players have not kept up with the pace and style of play of other teams in Asia.

Before the Asian Cup, you said that Vietnam should see this as an opportunity to learn and head toward practical goals such as the 2024 AFF Cup and the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. What have the team learned?

In my opinion, Troussier did not have a specific strategy. After the group stage draw, he knew the opponents and match schedule, he was supposed to make a clear plan to play each opponent. In this group, we determined that the main opponent were Indonesia, not Japan. But he used his best players to try hard against Japan and exhausted the team in the Indonesia clash.

I also don't understand why Hung Dung, who performed well against Japan but was put on the bench in the Indonesia match. I was also surprised when young striker Nguyen Van Tung played from the start, while Van Toan was not used despite his experience and pacing abilities. When Van Toan and Van Thanh came onto the field in the last minutes, we started to get more chances, which showed that Troussier was wrong to put too much trust in young players.

Besides using an unreasonable lineup, Troussier also didn’t have a specific strategy. The philosophy of keeping possession is good, but it cannot be applied to every opponent. Playing possession football against Japan and Iraq is not sensible.

I also don't understand why he let Khuat Van Khang play as a striker against Iraq, although he is just an offensive full-back. Troussier’s experiment of playing him as a striker against Iraq's tall defense is hard to accept. The proof is that Van Khang was completely harmless and received a red card for silly mistakes that he made when playing a role that he was not familiar with.

Vietnam left the tournament with three losses, four goals, two red cards and three penalties conceded. What do those numbers say?

Football is about numbers, but only on the scoreboard. Look at the scores. We lost all of the matches so these numbers don't mean anything.

Scoring four goals against Japan and Iraq is a positive sign. But three of them were from set-pieces. So what's the point of playing possession football when the goals came from set-pieces? I made a joke with my colleagues that Troussier should give up that style of play and just focus on corners and freekicks.

As for red cards and penalties, in my opinion, they come from the consequences of the V. League 1 and 2. In addition to the lack of experience of the players, the domestic tournaments themselves are a mess, the organizers are not strict enough, the referees are incompetent and the technology is poor. Such things made the players fail to keep up with international tournaments.

Currently, fans are polarized. One side still has faith and suggests giving coach Troussier more time. The other side wants to sack Troussier immediately. How about you?

I'm also a fan of the team so I'm very sad with those results. However, replacing Troussier cannot fix a football scene. Instead, we must accept, be patient and build facilities from clubs to the national team. In addition, it’s necessary to train professional coaches, who can do a good job of training young players, as well as perfecting a professional national competition system. The Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) needs to work with localities and clubs to join hands in building Vietnamese football, only then can we dream of swimming in the big ocean.

VFF also needs to review Troussier's crew. I found the assistants under him to be inefficient. They mostly only help him at training sessions and don’t have a common ground with the head coach. Even the interpreter, I didn’t t see his role during the match. Is Troussier so good at Vietnamese that he can give players instructions, or are Vietnamese players so good at English and French to comprehend what he says? VFF must solve this problem soon.

After the recent defeats, what is your prediction when Vietnam play two matches with Indonesia in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers in March?

I’m worried because the morale of the team is going down. The players will take a break for Lunar New Year, then return to the V. League for a few matches, and then gather with the team again to prepare for the two matches against Indonesia. I think there will be many players who lose form and get injured. Young players, as mentioned, are not mature enough to play square with the opponent.

I think, if we can improve those problems, Vietnam will still be able to beat Indonesia to enter the final qualifying round of World Cup qualifiers. If Troussier fails, he will definitely have to leave.

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