Vietnam coach says high spirit can't replace limitations

By Hieu Luong   August 1, 2023 | 07:00 am PT
Vietnam coach says high spirit can't replace limitations
Coach Mai Duc Chung at a press conference after the game between Vietnam and Netherlands at the Women's World Cup on August 1, 2023. Photo by Vietnam Football Federation
After a staggering 0-7 defeat to the Netherlands on Tuesday, coach Mai Duc Chung admitted that his squad's high spirits could not make up for the team’s shortcomings.

Vietnam failed to score a single goal in all their play at the 2023 Women’s World Cup over the last weeks. They ended up at the bottom of their group and were eliminated from competition early without ever coming close to creating the chance of advancing in this year's tournament.

The Netherlands, who were the last Women’s World Cup runners-up, thoroughly overpowered and overwhelmed the Vietnamese side in the last Group E game at Forsyth Barr Stadium in New Zealand.

Vietnam controlled the ball only 27% of the time and were only able to get off five shots, nearly nine times less than their European opponent.

"Vietnam can’t compare to the Netherlands in terms of skills," Chung said in the post-match press conference. "The players had high fighting spirit but that cannot make up for their limited skills and the loss was well-deserved."

Chung said that although Vietnam had been preparing for more than a year for this tournament, and the team improved significantly during friendly matches that proceeded the World Cup, the young squad still have their work cut out for them if they want to compete with the best teams in the world.

He also expressed gratitude to the fans who have been supporting the team, whether by going to the stadium or watching the games on television.

In Vietnam’s first time at the Women’s World Cup, they fell into an extremely tough group with defending champions the U.S., defending runner-up the Netherlands and a very strong Portugal squad. Chung said the team's goal from the beginning was always to compete and learn from stronger teams, as well as experience the atmosphere of a world-class tournament and hope to score.

In the opening match, Vietnam impressed observers with their resilient and disciplined style of play, and they lost only 0-3 to the U.S. In the next match with Portugal, Vietnam conceded a goal early, but held on and kept the game close until ultimately losing 0-2. But in the final game, Vietnam crumbled and suffered this World Cup’s biggest loss so far.

"Such a defeat is normal when a team like Vietnam play the Netherlands. We are comfortable and don’t have any regret because we have tried our best," said Chung. "I was even expecting a bigger defeat."

A positive note on Vietnam's performance in their last game was their marked improvement in its second half. According to Chung, during the break, he pointed out a number of issues to players, especially defensive problems. He told them to calm down, be more confident with the ball and remain focused.

Despite their losses, this generation of female players is considered to have laid the foundation for future Vietnamese footballers to become serious competitors at subsequent World Cup tournaments. Chung said he hopes that the men's team can follow suit, especially as FIFA has increased the number of participating teams in the 2026 World Cup from 32 to 48. He also hopes this team will inspire young players to train and improve their level in many aspects.

When asked what team will win the World Cup this time, Chung said: "Hopefully it's the Netherlands or the U.S., to show that it's normal for us to lose against such opponents."

Chung's team are expected to return to Vietnam on Thursday. A week later, they will gather again to prepare for the Asian Games 19 in Hangzhou, China, as well as the second qualifying round of the 2024 Olympics Paris. The 73-year-old coach refused to answer questions about his future. His current contract with Vietnam Football Federation will expire on December 31 this year, but he affirmed that he is ready to support the team in the next World Cup if needed.

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