Vietnam will not give up, says head coach

By Hieu Luong   July 31, 2023 | 03:10 pm PT
Despite Vietnam having already been eliminated, coach Mai Duc Chung wants his squad to perform well against defending runner-up Netherlands before saying goodbye to the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Vietnam have run out of chances to advance past the group stage after losing to the U.S. and Portugal, conceding five goals without scoring once. The Netherlands have earned four points and just need to draw to advance. However, coach Chung said he and his players have remained focused on playing a memorable match on Tuesday.

"After the second match, we knew that there was no chance left, but we didn't give up," Chung said at a press conference on Monday at Forsyth Barr Stadium, New Zealand. "The Netherlands are very strong and they are the runner-up of the World Cup. The match will be very difficult and the whole team must be highly determined."

Coach Mai Duc Chung on the sideline during the game between Portugal and Vietnam at Womens World Cup on July 27, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Ngu

Coach Mai Duc Chung on the sideline during the game between Portugal and Vietnam at Women's World Cup on July 27, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Ngu

The 73-year-old coach also confirmed that he would play with a defensive 5-4-1 formation because Vietnam cannot compete with the Netherlands on firepower. He recalled the somewhat "impulsive" approach his players took in their previous 0-2 defeat against Portugal and has reminded his team of what will happen if they focus too much on attacking and leave open space in the back of them to exploit.

This is the first encounter between the two teams. Vietnam are trying to avoid becoming the second Asian team to lose all three group-stage matches without scoring after Japan did so in 1991.

The Netherlands have won seven of their last nine matches at the World Cup. The two matches they failed to win were all against the U.S. - a 1-1 draw in the group stage this year and a 0-2 loss in the 2019 Women’s World Cup final.

Besides Vietnam, the Philippines are another Southeast Asian team at this year's tournament. They surprised everyone by defeating co-host New Zealand in the group stage and revived their hopes for advancing. However, in the last group stage match on Sunday, they suffered a heavy 0-6 defeat against Norway and were thus eliminated.

According to Chung, this result shows that Southeast Asia is still a weak football zone compared to the rest of the world and participating in this tournament can already be considered a success.

Chung also disagreed when many compared Vietnam with Philippines. He said Vietnam had played better than predicted by experts and bookies and have shown great effort in the past two matches.

"Philippines are better than Vietnam in terms of physique," Chung added. "We are shorter, and they used naturalized overseas players, which included many American-born players. But they also lost. Their strategy is also not reasonable. I’m sorry to say that. It's not reasonable for the team to go all out against a high-profile opponent."

Chung is considered the most successful domestic coach in the history of Vietnamese football. He helped the national women's football team win the SEA Games gold medal six times, win the AFF Cup title and qualify for their first World Cup. His contract with the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) expires on December 31, 2023, and it’s unlikely that he will still coach the team in the future.

The Tuesday match against Netherlands may be the final match in Chung’s decorated career.

"Nobody can keep doing one thing forever. There’s an end to everything," he said. "It's time to let someone else take over. I just hope that the next person will improve the team even more and take them to the next World Cup. I encouraged the whole team to compete and fight hard for this game, not only for me but also for all the Vietnamese people at home and abroad. Many people have come all the way here to cheer for us. We must keep the spirit of Vietnamese women's football burning, whether we win or lose."

The match between Vietnam and Netherlands will take place at 2 p.m. on Tuesday (Hanoi time) at Forsyth Barr Stadium, New Zealand, and will be reported live by VnExpress International.

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