Vietnam lack int'l preparedness for World Cup qualifiers

By Song Viet   August 25, 2021 | 05:08 pm PT
Vietnam lack int'l preparedness for World Cup qualifiers
Coach Park Hang-seo watches a training session of Vietnam national football team in August 2021. Photo courtesy of Vietnam Football Federation
Without international friendlies, it’s challenging for Vietnam to improve their level before the final round of World Cup qualifiers.

Since early August, the team have been in training without playing a real exhibition match other than practicing with the U22 team, which didn't afford them much progress.

The question is, what can the team do to change this?

Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) can arrange a more groundbreaking plan like taking the team abroad for training and letting them play some friendlies there. Of course, the chosen country must meet several criteria like having good training conditions, have a quality national team for friendly matches and meeting all health safety requirements of Asian Football Confederation.

For example, going to Japan for training is not a bad idea. Japan Football Association is a strategic partner of VFF. Football stadiums in Japan are still allowing a limited number of spectators, which means the team could have minimum support from Vietnamese fans who are living and working there. Vietnam will have the ideal conditions to prepare for the tough games ahead.

In a group with much stronger opponents like Japan, Saudia Arabia and Australia, home matches are perhaps the only advantage Vietnam can bank on to balance the level gap. At My Dinh National Stadium, the Golden Dragons haven’t lost any match. However, due to Covid-19, their home game against Australia on Sept. 7 will be played behind closed doors. Without fans, the home advantage doesn’t hold much value.

For a team considered the weakest of the group like Vietnam, the only way to play fair and square against world-class opponents is to constantly play similar ones in friendlies so they could get used to that level of football. Since 2020, Vietnam have only played one game against a stronger opponent, which was their 2-3 loss to the UAE in the second round of the World Cup qualifiers back in June.

So far, all of Vietnam’s achievements under coach Park Hang-seo were not random or lucky. It came from the highest form of preparation. Without the friendly tournament M-150 Cup in Thailand, there would have been no glory at U23 AFC Championship 2018, where Vietnam finished second. Without Asian Games 2018 and the training trip to South Korea, it would have been difficult to achieve success at AFF Cup 2018 and Asian Cup 2019.

Therefore, international friendly matches are really necessary for Park to make adjustments to tactics as well as formation. But for now, hope lies only on coach Park and the tactical options made based on watching videos of opponents playing and simulations on the computer.

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