Where has coach Troussier got it wrong?

March 29, 2024 | 03:09 pm PT
Vo Nhat Vinh Researcher
Twenty years after Vietnam were defeated by Indonesia at the Tiger Cup they have now been vanquished again by their arch-nemesis in the nation's capital.

However, the 0-3 World Cup qualifiers loss at Hanoi's My Dinh National Stadium on Tuesday was only one nail in the coffin.

Vietnamese football insiders and fans alike were already questioning whether or not national team gaffer Philippe Troussier would be able to take Vietnam to the top.

I saw it too.

The Frenchman Troussier is certainly not bad, and he has managed different nations at the World Cup.

However, despite his vast footballing expertise, he got Vietnam wrong.

Professionally, Troussier was miscast in the wrong seat. He desired to elevate Vietnamese football but he is not technical director of the Vietnam Football Federation. His position is head coach of the national team, and for that, the team's achievements should have been the most important factor. He should not sacrifice the national team's goal for something that is too distant (and possibly unfeasible), like transforming a country's football culture. He had tried to do that, by making the team adopt a new style of play and watching the players struggle to keep up.

The second problem is the differences between Western and Eastern coaching culture.

The head coach of the national team of developed football countries is only a "select" person, not a teacher. In Troussier's hometown, Didier Deschamps, the leader’s is called a "sélectionneur" - the person who selects players and chooses the method of play. It is not his responsibility to teach the players how to move or catch the ball.

The difference between Philippe Troussier and his predecessor Park Hang Seo comes from culture. Troussier was not compatible with Vietnamese football culture and that caused negative results.

Coach Troussier speaks during a press conference before a match between Vietnam and Indonesia during a World Cup qualifiers on March 20, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Coach Troussier speaks during a press conference before a match between Vietnam and Indonesia at the World Cup qualifiers on March 20, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

In Western culture, only students at schools get instructions. In the work environment, each person must be aware of their own work. Each individual in the group, when assigned a common task, must find out the specific details and solutions for their own implementation. For a rather classic Frenchman of such age, Troussier was imbued with the spirit of "autonome" (autonomy). That is a very special and popular keyword in the European cultural environment – especially in France - to evaluate human resources.

There have been many comparisons about the styles of Vietnam’s two most recent national coaches.

Park's former assistant once published a book called "Park Hang Seo Management Style". According to the book, the list of tasks is detailed for each person with each specific instructions. Meticulousness and detail are always necessary for cultures that are not strong in initiative at work. Meanwhile, the French coach, imbued with Western culture, did not seem to pay attention to the specific arrangements and assignments for his team.

The Vietnam national team played under Park with a strategy of entirely detailed scenarios for each situation, all of which were pre-planned.

On the contrary, the team under Troussier seemed to only learn very general lessons, and in each detailed situation what each player must do did not seem to be clearly shown. Regarding this point, Asian football analysts and expert Doan Minh Xuong have commented that it seemed that Troussier did not prepare enough scenarios for his students.

Looking back at Troussier's work history, he was most successful with the Japanese at the end of the 20th century - a time when Japan became a world economic power and was famous for its discipline and self-esteem. At that time, many Japanese players had gone to play in Europe and absorbed the independent working culture of the West. On the other hand, he suffered failure with teams that, despite having a lot of money or ambition, were not as disciplined, such as Qatar, China and some countries in Africa.

Losing a match or a tournament can be a good thing, because it reveals clearly where Vietnamese football foundation lacks. It also shows the Vietnam Football Federation's level of personnel selection: it did not take into account working culture factors, or was too confident about the level of the country's football background.

*Vo Nhat Vinh is a university lecturer in France

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