Vietnam's regression under Philippe Troussier

By Hieu Luong   March 26, 2024 | 07:54 pm PT
During Philippe Troussier's 394-day tenure, Vietnam underwent a disappointing SEA Games campaign, lost all three Asian Cup games, dropped in FIFA rankings, and nearly lost all hope in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

The 0-3 loss to Indonesia at My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi on Tuesday left Vietnam in third place in Group F with three points, trailing Indonesia by four points and group leaders Iraq by nine points.

HLV Troussier ở khu kỹ thuật trong trận Việt Nam thua Indonesia 0-2. Ảnh: Lâm Thoả

Coach Philippe Troussier (L) stands in Vietnam's technical area during the World Cup qualifier with Indonesia in My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi, March 26, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Vietnam theoretically still have a chance in the remaining two matches against the Philippines and Iraq in June. However, in reality, securing a spot in the 2026 World Cup third qualifiers, which is Troussier's primary goal, now seems nearly impossible. It is highly unlikely that Vietnam will get all six points while Indonesia will lose both of their remaining games.

Troussier previously failed to lead Vietnam to 32nd SEA Games success, earning only a bronze medal. The team were also unable to advance past the group stage of the 2023 Asian Cup, losing all three matches. His sole accomplishment was securing a spot in the 2024 AFC U23 Championship finals.

The defeat to Indonesia also risks Vietnam's chance of participating in the 2027 Asian Cup. According to regulations, the top two teams from each of the nine groups in the World Cup second qualifiers will automatically qualify for the Asian Cup. This means Vietnam may have to compete in the final round of Asian Cup qualifiers, scheduled from March 2025 to March 2026. The 18 teams eliminated from the World Cup second qualifiers and six teams eliminated from the first qualifiers will be drawn into six groups and play home and away matches to determine the last six spots at the 2027 Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Vietnamese players are disappointed after losing 0-3 to Indonesia in the World Cup qualifier in My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi, March 26, 2024. Video by VnExpress/Van Phu

Under Troussier, the national team had four wins, with only one competitive victory over the Philippines in the opening game of the World Cup second qualifiers. They suffered nine defeats, including six consecutive competitive losses, three of which were against Indonesia.

Once a defensively solid team, Vietnam conceded 21 goals - an average of 1.69 goals per match compared to 0.84 goals per match during the Park Hang-seo era. They also failed to demonstrate the possession-based and attacking style of play that Troussier promised upon his appointment, scoring only 10 goals (0.77 goals per match) compared to 1.64 goals per match under Park.

Particularly against Indonesia, the tide of history has turned. Under Troussier, Vietnam suffered their first defeat against Indonesia since the first leg of the AFF Cup 2016 semi-finals and their first defeat at My Dinh Stadium in 20 years since the 2004 Tiger Cup (now the AFF Cup) group stages.

When Troussier took charge in March 2023, Vietnam were 95th in the FIFA rankings and the number one team in Southeast Asia. However, they have since lost their first place to Thailand and are facing the possibility of exiting the top 110 of the FIFA rankings for the first time since March 2018.

Vietnam currently sit at 105th in the FIFA rankings but are expected to drop outside the top 110 after two losses to Indonesia. Vietnam are also ranked 19th in Asia and at risk of falling out of the top 20. Failure to improve their ranking will see Vietnam drop to the fourth seed group (bottom tier) for the 2027 Asian Cup draw. In the last two editions, Vietnam were in the third seed group, which helped them avoid some strong opponents of the same group.

Most importantly, Vietnam have lost the fans' trust under Troussier. Disappointment has been growing since the 2023 Asian Cup, culminating in chants for Troussier's sacking during the recent defeats to Indonesia.

CĐV Việt Nam muốn HLV Troussier rời đội tuyển. Ảnh: Lâm Thoả

Vietnamese fans hold a banner in My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi, asking for coach Philippe Troussier to quit, March 26, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

As he failed to meet the target of advancing to the World Cup third qualifiers, Troussier's contract, which was supposed to last until July 2026, was terminated by the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) on Tuesday night. Contract terms allowed VFF to avoid significant compensation to the French coach as he was unable to achieve the main goal in the World Cup qualifiers.

VFF will be rushing to find a new head coach, while the national team will return to the drawing board to adapt to a new era.

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