Women's World Cup glory in reach of 'heir to throne' Vietnam

By Hoang Nguyen   July 6, 2020 | 04:28 pm PT
Women's World Cup glory in reach of 'heir to throne' Vietnam
Captain Huynh Nhu celebrates after scoring against Australia at a 2020 Olympic Tokyo qualification match, on March 11, 2020. It was Vietnamese women's first goal against Australian. Photo courtesy of the Asian Football Confederation.
The Asian Football Federation (AFC) has picked Vietnam as one of Asia's rising teams to chase the Women's World Cup dream.

Expanding Women's World Cup 2023 from 24 to 32 teams will afford more opportunities to teams like Vietnam, the Philippines and India, according to AFC, who called the Vietnam women's football team "heir to the throne."

"They are now the highest-ranked Asian nation to have never played at a FIFA Women's World Cup as well as Southeast Asia's premier women's national team, often getting the better of a Thailand side that has appeared at the past two global finals," AFC wrote.

"The gulf between Vietnam and Asia's traditional powerhouses also appears, slowly but surely, to be closing," it added.

Vietnamese striker and captain Huyen Nhu told AFC: "Recently, we have been developing well, and have enjoyed many good achievements, especially in our latest tournaments."

Nhu and her team went unbeaten in 2019, winning the AFF Women’s Championship title as well as a SEA Games gold medal.

In March 2020, Vietnam clashed with Australia in a Olympic Tokyo 2020 qualification play-off. While they suffered a first leg 0-5 defeat to the Matildas, a result that was foreseen, a 1-2 second leg defeat at home indicated a positive sign, since Vietnam had never scored against Australia before. Nhu wrote her name on the score board with a stunning lob from a distance of over 27 m.

"We know the gap between Vietnam and Australia is still large, therefore, when playing against Australia at home, we only set a target to score against them. That's something we had never done before," Nhu recalls.

Vietnam has come a long way since Women’s Asian Cup 2018. At the tournament, they were grouped with giants like Australia, Japan and South Korea and lost all three matches. But at the moment, after finishing among the final four of Asia’s Olympic qualifiers, they are now ranked sixth in the continent, only behind big teams Australia, North Korea, Japan, China and South Korea. They are currently first in Southeast Asia and 35th in the world.

AFC wrote: "A similar result at 2022 Asian Finals will make Nhu’s charges the first in the nation’s history to appear on the game’s biggest stage."

Eight countries to directly qualify for the 2023 World Cup will be decided after 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, with the country finishing ninth to enter the play-off against a team from another region.

"This is a big chance for Vietnam women’s team. With the number of participating teams increasing and Australia as host, the opportunity for our team is now much bigger," Nhu said.

"It is the best chance for Vietnamese football to make its World Cup dream come true. I believe there will be more future training programs and tournaments for the team to gain experience, all looking ahead to Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand," the captain said.

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