World Cup participation a distant dream in football-crazy Vietnam

By Tuan Hoang   June 13, 2018 | 04:27 pm PT
World Cup participation a distant dream in football-crazy Vietnam
U23 Vietnam football team in 2018 AFC Championship. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Khoa
Recent successes in regional tournaments have sparked aspirations, but Vietnam nowhere near ready for the World Cup, pundits say.

A 16-team boost to participation in the 2026 World Cup has raised many fans’ hopes, but Vietnam is a long way away from getting there, football pundits say.

“The 2026 World Cup will increase participation slots from 32 to 48 national teams, which means Vietnam has to be in Asia’s top 10 teams to appear in the tournament,” said football commentator Doan Minh Xuong.

"The Vietnamese football scene currently lacks development and promotion, as well as basic factors to grow, like stadiums and coaches. To be in Asia’s top 10, Vietnam needs a lot of improvement," he said.

Xuong noted that young players have contributed a lot to the recent success of Vietnamese football, so the focus has to be on training them. Several young players have already experienced international competitions since they were teenagers, he told Tuoi Tre.

Vietnam’s national football team coach, Korean Park Hang-seo, echoed Xuong: “Vietnam is not ready for the World Cup yet. Football movement in Vietnam is not going strong at the moment. Hoang Anh Gia Lai and Hanoi FC are the only two clubs having great youth training quality but that’s not enough. To build a World Cup-ready squad, we have to make a specific plan and accomplish it together.

“To keep Vietnamese football on the rise in the future, young players must be the backbone.”

German Jurgen Gede, Technical Director of the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF), told Thanh Nien: “To realize the World Cup dream is very challenging, and it is not only the responsibility of coach Park Hang-seo but also the mission that VFF, football clubs and government have to share in the future.”

The legendary Manchester United player, Ryan Giggs, who took over as director of the Promotion Fund of Vietnamese Football Talents (PVF) last year, has promised to build training programs for young Vietnamese players and have them participate in international tournaments frequently.

“With the potential of young players, Vietnam will have a quality and experienced generation of footballers in the next 5-7 years, and hopefully then we can aim for a ticket to the 2030 World Cup,” Giggs said.

Vietnam’s football ambitions have soared since the U20 team made history in grabbing a ticket to the U20 World Cup after defeating hosts Bahrain 1-0 in the quarter-final of 2016 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U19 Championship.

Last January, the national U23 football team sent the nation into an ecstatic frenzy, beating more fancied teams in an amazing journey to the finals of the AFC U23 Championship in China.

These young footballers have played together since they were in the under-20 team and are still playing in the national team. That is the same formula to success that Germany has applied to their national football team. In 2008, their under-19 team won the U19 World Cup. The same team won U21 World Cup in 2009. Five years later, Germany won 2014 World Cup in Brazil, with many familiar faces in the national team coming from the U21 team in 2009.

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