|Hoàng Thị Loan (5) and her teammates tried a different approach but the plan backfired. Việt Nam however, still played well in the second half. — AFP/VNA Photo|
HAMILTON — The Việt Nam national women's football team is out of the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup after a 2-0 loss against Portugal on Thursday in Hamilton, New Zealand.
A different approach to the match was taken by Head Coach Mai Đức Chung in hopes of dealing an early blow to Portugal. The plan backfired, however, as Việt Nam conceded two early goals in the first 20 minutes, courtesy of Telma Encarnacao and Francisca Nazareth.
Both Việt Nam and Portugal needed a win to keep their hope of progressing into the round of 16 alive, after losing their first matches in the group.
Key midfielder Dương Thị Vân returned to the starting line-up after missing the first match due to a head injury, while hot prospect Nguyễn Thị Thanh Nhã got her first start, playing in a front three with Chung hoping to utilise Nhã's speed in counters.
Việt Nam started off the match on the front foot, and even claimed their first corner in the tournament at the third minute.
Portugal replied just one minute later after Jessica Silva was put through in a one-on-one with Trần Thị Kim Thanh. Silva's shot was centimetres wide, a big warning to the Vietnamese defence.
The warning soon becomes reality, as just four minutes later, Portugal opened the score with a vicious one-touch finish from Encarnacao, after a brilliant cross by Sousa Alves.
Việt Nam chased for an equaliser, and were drawn high by Portugal. Holes in Việt Nam's defence were exposed, and the Portuguese capitalised with their second in the 21st minute after Encarnacao's great through ball put Kika Nazareth on goal. The 20-year-old's shot was too hard for Kim Thanh to save.
The Portuguese piled on the pressure and forced Kim Thanh to make saves after saves.
It took 40 minutes for Việt Nam to slowly regain their composure. They even recorded their first-ever shot on target in the 43rd minute from Nguyễn Thị Bích Thuỳ.
Coach Chung returned to his original tactics in the match against the United States, playing a low-block defence and putting Thanh Nhã as the lone striker upfront.
The changes worked as Việt Nam play better defence-wise and conceded no goal, but the difference in skills and physicality denied Nhã and her teammates control of the game, even when Portugal subbed out key players.
Việt Nam pushed forward in the final five minutes of the match, aiming for their first-ever goal in the Women's World Cup, but it was all too late and the match ended 2-0 to Portugal.
"We were too hasty," said striker Thanh Nhã in the post-game interview, "Because we pushed too high, gaps were exploited by the opposition. After the first half, Coach Chung told us to slow down play," Nhã added.
"We were complacent," said Head Coach Mai Đức Chung, "The players thought it was easy to attack and hastily pushed forward, exposing gaps behind their back."
With this result, Việt Nam still sits bottom of Group E with zero points and are eliminated. Portugal still have a slight hope of qualifying with three points in third place, behind the United States and Holland, both with four points.
The Golden Star Women's Warriors can still play spoilers to the 2019 World Cup finalist Holland, should they create an unlikely victory on August 1. — VNS