Vietnam have fewest number of players abroad at World Cup

By Hoang An   July 19, 2023 | 03:26 pm PT
With 96% of the team playing domestically, Vietnam have the fewest footballers playing abroad at the 2023 Women's World Cup.

Italy, Spain, the U.S. and Vietnam all have 22 footballers playing for domestic clubs, accounting for 96% of the squad. The only players playing football abroad from each of these four teams are Italy's Giulia Dragoni (FC Barcelona, Spain), U.S.'s Lindsey Horan (Lyon, France), Spain's Jenni Hermoso (Pachuca, Mexico), and Vietnam's Huynh Nhu (Lank Vilaverdense, Portugal).

Placing second are England and Germany with 87% of domestic players in their squads. The number in all other teams is less than 80%.

The 32 teams in the 2023 Women's World Cup confirmed their squad list with FIFA on July 12, with a total of 736 players participating. 107 players are playing for English clubs, accounting for 15%. There are 18 teams that have players playing for English clubs, accounting for more than half of the number of teams in the tournament.

Striker Huynh Nhu, the only Vietnamese female player playing football abroad, for Portugals Lank FC. Photo by VnEpxress/Ngoc Thanh

Striker Huynh Nhu, the only Vietnamese female player playing football abroad, for Portugal's Lank FC. Photo by VnEpxress/Ngoc Thanh

American clubs contributed 84 players to the tournament, accounting for 11% of the list, followed by Spain with 10% and France 8%. The leagues in these countries are of great quality and attract many good players, so their domestic players do not need to play football abroad to improve.

The case is different for Vietnam, one of the weakeast teams at this World Cup. Huynh Nhu is the first and only Vietnamese female player to go abroad, as she played 23 games for Lank last season, scoring seven goals and assisting twice. The Portuguese club want to keep Nhu for another season and a contract extension is being negotiated.

Among teams outside the top 20, Zambia have the second-lowest percentage of players going abroad with 26%, behind Vietnam. This team are ranked 77th in the world, which is the lowest in the tournament. They have six players going abroad, to Kazakhstan, China and Spain. The other teams that are not highly rated in this World Cup also have a ratio of players going abroad of around 50%.

The team with the most players going abroad is the Philippines, as only center-back Hali Long is playing in the country. Their remaining 22 players play abroad. This is because the Philippines takes advantage of players born abroad, while all Vietnamese players are native-born.

The trend of weaker and mid-range teams at this World Cup is to send players abroad to improve their level like Zambia, or naturalize players like Philippines. Vietnam opt for players who are all home-grown.


Vietnamese players, whether female or male, have many barriers when playing football abroad. They are obliged to complete the contracts with their clubs before going abroad as foreign clubs do not want to pay the transfer fee for players from lesser leagues. Before Huynh Nhu went to Lank, striker Pham Hai Yen and midfielder Nguyen Thi Tuyet Dung also received offers to play abroad, but could not go due to this reason.

In addition, problems related to cultural differences and competition environment also make Vietnamese players hesitate to go abroad. Former Vietnam national women's coach Steve Darby told VnExpress: "Vietnamese players always feel homesick when going abroad, that’s why they hesitate. They should be braver, because no matter what, they will come back stronger."

Former striker of the men's national team Le Cong Vinh played abroad twice, in Portugal and Japan, leaving a good impression. However, the next generation of Vietnamese players has been unsuccessful. Most struggled to find their form upon returning to Vietnam.

Huynh Nhu's success in Portugal can be a motivation for many Vietnamese players to get over their fear, especially when there is not much room for game time at home, given that the national women's football championship only has seven teams.

The 2023 Women's World Cup is considered a platform for players to show their talents and attract attention from foreign clubs.

The tournament will take place in Australia and New Zealand from July 20 to August 20. Vietnam are in group E with the defending champions the U.S., runner-up Netherlands, and Portugal. Vietnam will play the opening match against the U.S. in Auckland, New Zealand on July 22.

go to top