|Vietnamese players celebrate a win in the 2023 AFC U17 Asian Cup qualifiers. The team will compete in Group D at the finals on June 15-July 2 in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo courtesy of VFF|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam faces a challenging journey at the 2023 AFC U17 Asian Cup after being drawn into a formidable group at a ceremony held on March 30 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The tournament, scheduled to take place from June 15 to July 2, will feature 16 teams divided into four groups, with the top four teams securing their spots in the FIFA U17 World Cup Peru 2023 later this year.
Việt Nam has been placed in Group D alongside reigning champions Japan, India and Uzbekistan.
Japan, with an impressive three championship titles to their name, is undoubtedly the strongest team on the continent, having emerged victorious in 1994, 2006 and 2018.
India has twice made it to the quarter-finals in 2002 and 2018, while Uzbekistan triumphed in 2012.
In other groups, host Thailand, champions in 1998, will have Malaysia, Laos and Yemen for the company in Group A.
Two-time champions South Korea were drawn with Iran, Afghanistan and Qatar in an exciting Group B, with Iran and Qatar have won the title once each previously.
The 2018 runners-up Tajikistan are in a challenging Group C with Australia, Saudi Arabia and China, the latter being two-time winners.
On March 30, coach Hoàng Anh Tuấn short-listed 34 players for the tournament.
They are the best ones with outstanding performance at the national championship, which closed earlier this month in Hưng Yên Province.
They will train from April 1 to 16 at the PVF Football Centre.
"Being finalists means that none are weak teams," said Tuấn.
"In Group D, Japan is exceptional. They are at a higher level than us, from junior to senior football and even women's football.
"Uzbekistan is also a powerhouse. They beat us in the Asian U23 tournament in 2018 and recently in the U20 competition persuasively. They have had strong investments in youth football while their players' qualities are really good.
"They are not easy to play. Only India is on the same level as us."
However, Tuấn was still confident in his side's abilities.
"At the U17 level, players have not completely matured in both terms of psychology and physiology. It is important to prepare for them as much as we can. Evaluating teams' strengths is only theory; the reality will be much different.
"At the continental competition, all teams will face their challenges.
"We must be confident to face any rival. This tournament is for young players who must compete in big matches to grow fast.
"Vietnamese players have to train in worse conditions than many other teams, but they are potential and talented.
"We are in a hard group, but it is impossible to predict the results of youth football. At the recent U20 championship, Việt Nam beat Australia and Qatar, both stronger sides.
"Hope is available for everyone." VNS