Olympic dream nearly over for Vietnam women's football team

By Quang Huy, Hieu Luong   October 26, 2023 | 06:19 pm PT
Olympic dream nearly over for Vietnam women's football team
Vietnam (in red) could not beat hosts Uzbekistan at the Olympic Paris qualifiers on October 26, 2023. Photo by Uzbekistan Football Association
After losing 0-1 to Uzbekistan in their opening game of the 2024 Paris Olympics qualifiers Thursday, the Vietnamese women's football team are unlikely to advance further.

In group C, where mighty Japan are the favorites to take the top spot, Vietnam needed to beat Uzbekistan and India to keep their hopes of moving into the third round of qualifying as the best second-placed team.

But Uzbekistan playing at home were not an easy opponent despite being placed 16 places lower in the FIFA rankings.

Vietnam let Diyorakhon Khabibullaeva score in the first half and failed to find an equalizer in the remaining time.

In their previous two encounters, Vietnam had beaten Uzbekistan quite easily.

But this time around the Uzbeks showed that their semifinal entry in the recent Asian Games was no flash in the pan.

Under Japanese coach Midori Honda, they attacked right from the start, but when Vietnam began to dominate, they fell back in numbers and waited for opportunities from long balls.

The only goal of the match was scored from a messy situation. After Qizi Mamatkarimova crossed, Umida Zoirova clashed with Tran Thi Thu Thao and the ball bounced behind the Vietnamese midfielders. Khabibullaeva managed to reach the ball and slot it past goalkeeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh.

While Uzbekistan have improved, the series of poor performances following the 2023 Women's World Cup in July continued for Vietnam.

In this match, coach Mai Duc Chung played Huynh Nhu and Pham Hai Yen as the two strikers while veteran midfielder Nguyen Thi Tuyet Dung returned.

But despite having played together for a long time, the team seemed to be out of sync.

Except for Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy's shot on target, Vietnam did not create any real chances in the first half.

The entry of younger players like Nguyen Thi Thanh Nha, Nguyen Thi My Anh and Ngan Thi Van Su after the break helped Vietnam improve in attack.

But Uzbekistan stayed focused. Thanh Nha had almost no space to press forward while Huynh Nhu could not take any shots inside the box.

The chances that Vietnam created mainly came from individual efforts. Huynh Nhu took two free kicks one of which hit the post and other went inches away from goal.

After the defeat, coach Chung said: "I’m sorry for this result. As the head coach, I take full responsibility."

Vietnam have a chance to advance if they beat India and Japan in the next two games.

But Japan thrashed Vietnam 7-0 in the Asian Games only last month, and a win against them seems unlikely.

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