HÀ NỘI — This is Phạm Hải Yến third attempt at helping Việt Nam secure a spot at the World Cup, and the 27-year-old striker isn't ready to let go of her dream just yet.
Việt Nam are in the same group as powerful rivals South Korea, Japan and Myanmar in the Indian AFC Women's Asian Cup, the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Earning points against top teams has been a tough job for Việt Nam. A 3-0 loss to South Korea on Friday makes their job even harder. But it has not discouraged the 27-year-old player.
“There is no road that is too easy or too difficult to go for people. Let's try our best, then one day we will receive sweet results which are not for those who give up early," said Yến referring to Việt Nam's journey to find their first World Cup participation ever.
On Friday, Việt Nam spent most of the match in their own half. Yến had an opportunity to score in the 38th minute, but while Chương Thị Kiều was able to pick out her from the sea of players from a free-kick, she failed to keep her header down.
Yến is heading to the next match against Japan to show off her skills that helped her hit eight goals in two appearances that powered Việt Nam to a place in the Indian event. She finished as leading scorer and one of the six best players in the preliminaries.
“Of course, the Women's Asian Cup is a test for us,” the dynamic forward said. “My targets for this campaign are simple: try to help my team win games to qualify for the World Cup for the first time.
“I think the chances for the contenders have been increased, and that includes us. Therefore, I will try my best to make it with my team. The World Cup is every player's dream and all I want is to realise it,” she said.
Born in Hà Nội in 1994, Yến was the naughty girl of the family and loved to play football with boys in the village.
“Football is interesting and fun. It was so cool playing the game, even though I was the only girl in the match,” said Yến.
She decided to become a professional footballer after watching Việt Nam at the 2003 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Hà Nội. The team won silver and Yến was inspired. She wanted to have great skills like talented striker Phạm Văn Quyến who scored four goals.
There was no easy path to success. In her 13 years playing football, Yến tasted ups and downs in her career. One time, she even wanted to quit.
However, she came back and was the National Women's Football Championship’s top scorer four times, in 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Internationally, Yến has scored 30 goals from 44 national caps across 11 years. She won an AFF Cup bronze in 2011, gold in 2019 and two SEA Games titles in 2017 and 2019.
She said the tournament-winning goal she scored against Thailand in the final of the 2019 SEA Games was her most memorable one. The two sides were locked at 0-0 after 90 minutes, but two minutes into extra time, Yến headed in a free-kick to seal the victory for Việt Nam.
"I was so happy to score the only goal in the final. Not many players could have such a chance to score a decisive winning goal. I caught that amazing moment and we won the trophy which is a milestone moment in my career," said Yến.
Yến was a member of Việt Nam's 2015 and 2019 World Cup journey's, though both were unsuccessful. She also missed her chance to compete abroad following an offer from Portuguese Lank FC because of a document issue in 2020.
"I am happy as I can live and play with my passion. My family and coaches have given me big support over all these years. I think I owe them for my success. I should do better to live up to the expectations,” said Yến. — VNS