Pundit slams coach Troussier's lack of game plan in Vietnam's defeat to Indonesia

By Duc Dong   March 22, 2024 | 04:14 pm PT
Pundit Doan Minh Xuong said Indonesia did not have anything special up their sleeve, but Vietnam's lack of game plan and inappropriate player selection led to their defeat at the World Cup qualifier Thursday.

What are your thoughts after Vietnam's loss to Indonesia at the 2026 World Cup second qualifiers on Thursday?

Like most fans, I was infuriated after the match. I turned off my phone and went to bed immediately because I did not want to hear any more news about the national team. I am disappointed because Indonesia did not even play that well, yet Vietnam failed to have a single shot on target throughout the match.

The only goal we conceded came from a set piece, while we should have practiced how to limit it hundreds of thousands of times with different players and tactics. However, it seems the team still had no clue how to deal with it.

I feel sorry and empathize with the players. They tried their best, but the coach’s team selection was just wrong. He had no game plan for the match, which is why we lost in such a humiliating way.

HLV Troussier trao đổi với trung vệ Việt Anh và tiền vệ Hoàng Đức trong trận thua Indonesia 0-1 ở lượt thứ ba bảng F vòng loại hai World Cup 2026 - khu vực châu Á, trên sân Bung Karno, Jakarta tối 21/3. Ảnh: Lâm Thỏa

Coach Philippe Troussier discusses with players in Vietnam's 0-1 loss to Indonesia in the 2026 World Cup qualifier in Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta, March 21, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Under coach Philippe Troussier, Vietnam have conceded three goals from throw-ins against Indonesia. Before the loss on Thursday, the team also conceded goals against the Indonesia U23 in the semifinals of the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia. Why have Vietnam yet to find a solution to limit them?

It is clear to me that coach Troussier and his assistants did not learn any lessons from the goals that we conceded at the SEA Games. Moreover, players like Vo Minh Trong and Phan Tuan Tai failed to stop those goals by Arhan Pramata in every occasion. I do not blame them, as they are just the victims.

The fault lies in the coach's calculations. If we are aware of how dangerous the opponents’ set pieces and throw-ins are, why play Minh Trong, Tuan Tai, and Tien Dung instead of taller defenders like Thanh Binh, Thanh Chung, and Van Thanh?

Besides, you cannot be offside from a throw-in. If our defenders are not as tall as theirs, we need to arrange players to defend the penalty area and provide cover for goalkeeper Nguyen Filip, who has an advantage in both height and reach.

In the goal conceded in Thursday's match, Filip had to mark the Indonesia players during throw-ins and had no one covering behind him. This made him passive and unable to respond well to the opponent’s shot. If the team fails to address such a persistent issue, how can we expect to win?

Troussier had called up more experienced players this time compared to the 2023 Asian Cup, but they still ended up on the bench. What do you think is the reason for this?

Coach Troussier has the right to make any decisions related to the national team, but they have to make sense and work. I think he recalled these experienced players just to appease the public.

Just look at the starting lineup. Why would a player like Nguyen Dinh Bac, who has just returned after being disciplined and has not scored in the V-League, start the match? Why were players like Tien Linh, Quang Hai, Van Toan, and Van Thanh, who are in good form and scoring regularly in the V-League, benched for a recently disciplined youngster? Vietnamese football does not have so many talents that these players had to sit on the bench.

In addition, how can the more experienced and in-form players be motivated to play when they are undeservedly benched by younger players? In South Korea, a youngster as prominent as Lee Kang-in had to publicly apologize and be benched for his actions. That is the necessary discipline for young players, and we have to set examples for others.

I also noticed that before this training camp, Troussier met privately with players like Thanh Chung and Duc Chien and praised their good performances. He opened the door for them but then immediately shut it by making them sit on the bench and watch their younger teammates play soulless football.

There is a saying that we should use people like using wood, meaning using the right players in the right positions. Instead, we are frustrating them and weakening ourselves with such a confusing team selection.

2026 World Cup qualifiers: Indonesia 1-0 Vietnam

You have managed many clubs in the V-League. If you had been the national team coach, what would have been your game plan and selection for the away match against Indonesia?

I have been the head coach of many teams and a lecturer in football, and my whole life revolves around football, so I understand what we need. Football has many variables, so the coach needs plans for each phase of the game.

If I had been the coach, we would have counter-attacked right from the start. In that case, Tien Linh would have been in the starting line-up along with Van Toan, who could have used his speed and dribbling ability. Hoang Duc should have played higher up the field as he is a playmaker, and we would need a sweeper behind him to recover the ball. Quang Hai deserved to play because of his unpredictability. Additionally, I would have utilized the height and experience of Thanh Binh, Duc Chien, and Van Thanh to limit Indonesia's throw-ins.

I do not underestimate Hung Dung’s presence, but he has been a little bit rusty after being overlooked in many recent matches. Thai Son is explosive but tends to commit too many fouls. Nham Manh Dung is a left-winger, so he is not suitable as a center forward.

As for Dinh Bac, he is still young and needs time to learn and observe his seniors, rather than playing just to take throw-ins. Maybe we wanted Indonesia to have a taste of their own medicine by having Dinh Bac take the throw-ins, but it did not work because we did not have anyone taller than the opponents to challenge these throws.

I believe even the amateur coaches can give such an analysis. Troussier is probably the only one who did not understand or refused to understand it. After conceding the goal early in the second half, we should have changed the way we played immediately, with players dictating the tempo, keeping possession, and stretching the opponents' defense. Instead, the team played hastily, used long balls, and created no chances. How could we possibly equalize?

Apart from Troussier's inappropriate choice of players, what do you think of Indonesia and their naturalized players?

I think Indonesia are definitely not formidable. Their naturalized players are still inexperienced, and their playing style is not yet free-flowing or modern. Indonesia did not beat us because they have many naturalized players; the main issue here is that we shot ourselves in the foot.

Furthermore, Indonesia's naturalized players play in a sportsmanlike way, while their native players often resort to trickery. That is not surprising. I remember in the last minutes of the game when Ricky Kambuaya was subbed in, he immediately flexed his muscles to intimidate our players. Then, when Vietnam counterattacked, this 27-year-old player had to commit a foul to stop our players. But that was a wise selection by coach Shin Tae-yong, who understands the temperament, strengths, and weaknesses of his players to use them at the right time. In contrast, our senior players had to accept their fate in the bench.

Dàn cầu thủ nhiều kinh nghiệm của tuyển Việt Nam, gồm Văn Thanh, Tấn Tài, Tiến Linh, Quang Hải, Văn Toàn, ngồi trên ghế dự bị trong trận thua Indonesia 0-1 ngày 21/3. Ảnh: Lâm Thỏa

Many experienced Vietnamese players including Van Thanh (number 17), Tan Tai (13), Tien Linh (22), Quang hai (19), and Van Toan (9) sit on the bench in Vietnam's 0-1 loss to Indonesia at the World Cup qualifier in Jakarta on March 21, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Although Vietnam lost and narrowed our chance of going through the third qualifiers, after the match, coach Troussier still smiled, shook hands, and chatted with the players and the opposing coach. He was also optimistic and praised the Vietnamese players’ performance. What do you think?

I am honestly fed up. He seems to have little respect for the Vietnamese fans. A football match lasts for 90 minutes, yet Troussier only praised the team’s first half performance. Perhaps FIFA should change the rules so each game only has one half?

Troussier said 80% of Vietnamese fans want the Vietnam Football Federation to sack him for ruining Vietnamese football. That is what he said, but it might be the truth.

Had Indonesia won by playing well and being dominant, I would never have blamed him. But Indonesia were pretty average, yet we still put ourselves in a difficult position, played without rhythm, and just ran around aimlessly.

Even when our players were fouled, I did not see Troussier and his assistants stood up to defend them. They just sat there and endured quietly. Nothing could have been more disappointing.

Do you have any hope for the second leg match on March 26 at My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi?

I do not want to criticize any further, because that would add more pressure on the players. But I hope Troussier will listen and change. We need to use experienced players for such important matches, instead of calling them up and not using them. Indonesia's throw-ins are still their dangerous weapon, we need to find a way to defend against them. If the head coach refuses to change and remains stubborn, arrogant, and conservative, then the result will be the same.

I also hope that the fans will show up and support the national team at My Dinh Stadium. In times like these, the players need the fans' support more than ever. If we win the return leg, our chance of advancing is alive again.

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