Vietnam can beat Japan: coach Troussier

By Lam Thoa   January 13, 2024 | 08:44 pm PT
Vietnam can beat Japan: coach Troussier
Coach Philippe Troussier at a press conference ahead of Vietnam's Asian Cup game with Japan in Doha, Qatar, on Jan. 13, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa
Despite the marked differences in levels between the two teams, coach Philippe Troussier believes an upset victory against Japan in their Asian Cup opener on Sunday is not out of the question for Vietnam.

Vietnam will begin their 2023 Asian Cup journey against the competition's most decorated team - four-time champion Japan. With 20 names currently playing in Europe, Japan are also the number one contender to take home the title.

The glaring gap between Japan and coach Troussier's young Vietnam squad is evident in the two sides' FIFA ranking, as Vietnam sit 77 places below the 17th-ranked Japan. The Blue Samurai are also in the form of their life, having won 10 consecutive matches against strong opponents like Germany (4-1), Turkey (4-2), Syria (5-0), and Jordan (6-1), and only lost one competitive game since the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Facing an opponent of such caliber, coach Troussier, the head coach of the Japan national team from 1998 to 2002, remains confident.

"I have had experience working in Japanese football, and I understand them well. They are such a formidable opponent," said Troussier. "If you want to get a positive result against Japan, you will have to put in more than 100 percent of your effort."

"That being said, I do not rule out our chance of getting a surprise result. We may lose 9 out of 10 matches, but we can still get a good result against Japan, maybe even a victory," said the French coach.

He said Vietnam need to be solid in defense, try to limit Japan's space, and take advantage of even the smallest of chances. "We will have to quickly adapt to the game and be absolutely committed. We need to make it difficult for them to play their football," noted coach Troussier.

"In the 2022 World Cup, you could see what happened when Japan were allowed to play the way they intended in the matches against Germany and Spain. They might not be the stronger or more dominant side, but they had a more intelligent approach to the game.

"There is no denying of Japan's strength, and we may only have around 20% possession of the ball. But that means we can still create chances, and we will try to take advantage of them," he said. "Of course, we will have to keep in mind the number of goals scored and conceded, as they will be crucial in deciding if we can advance."

Coach Troussier insisted that there are more to Vietnam’s 2023 Asian Cup campaign than just the Japan clash. "We have two more games afterwards, and even if we do not get the desired result against Japan, it is not over for us. Teams finishing third of their group with good results still have a chance of going through," he said.

He then reminded everyone how Vietnam narrowly escaped the group stages of the 2019 Asian Cup by being the third-placed team with the fourth best results. In the tournament in the UAE, Park Hang-seo’s Vietnam lost 2-3 to Iraq and 0-2 to Iran before defeating Yemen 2-0 to finish third of the group. Vietnam had the exact same points, goal difference, and number of goals scored and conceded as Lebanon, but one fewer yellow card allowed the former to advance to the round of 16 on fair play rules.

Troussier believes that Japan has little information about Vietnam ahead of the two teams’ meeting, but he considers it neither an advantage nor disadvantage for him and his players.

"The Japanese regard success as the result of collective efforts. When I worked in Japan 20 years ago, I also tried to enhance the teamwork and collectivity of teams at all levels.

"I think Vietnam are similar to Japan in this aspect. My players have little experience playing football abroad, but they have good connections and teamwork spirits. A positive result against Japan - if we manage to get one - will be a reward earned by the entire team and not one specific individual," said the 68-year-old coach.

"We will show Japan what we are capable of."

The Vietnam national team have undergone a major reform after coach Troussier took over in 2023. Many youngsters, such as Vo Minh Trong, Nguyen Thai Son, Nguyen Dinh Bac, and Le Ngoc Bao, have been given opportunities to play for the team. The absence of key players like keeper Dang Van Lam, defenders Doan Van Hau, Nguyen Thanh Chung, and Que Ngoc Hai, and striker Nguyen Tien Linh at the 2023 Asian Cup due to injuries will also open the doors for more young blood in Qatar.

Vietnam's squad are the fourth youngest team at this year's competition with an average age of 25.8, after Indonesia (24.8), Tajikistan (25), and Kyrgyzstan (25.4). However, this is not a concern for coach Troussier.

"I can feel the desire of my players. We know the Asian Cup is the continent's most prestigious competition. The fans and the media will be watching closely, and this is our chance to show what we can do. We have prepared ourselves well and will play with pride to represent Vietnam."

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