|U23 players are training in Kunshan, China. They are the first of six Vietnamese teams to compete at the Asian championships in 2018. — Photo VFF|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam’s football teams had an outstanding 2017 with six national teams qualifying for Asian championships and this will prove to be their achievement as well as challenge in 2018.
The six teams include senior squads of men, women and futsal and three young crews of U-23, U-19 and U-16.
The U-23s will be the first ones to take part in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Championship, which will be held from January 9 in China.
They are now in the final stages in Kunshan, where the temperature is around 40 degrees Celsius.
Facing their big rivals — South Korea, Australia and Syria — Việt Nam has almost no opportunity to win the next round.
However, coach Park Hang-seo and his players are very confident and hope to have a breakthrough.
Việt Nam will start their tourney on Thursday against reigning runners-up South Korea.
At the 2016 tournament, Việt Nam, under Japanese coach Toshiya Miura, was sent home early after three losses.
Coach Miguel Rodrigo and his 20 players are training hard in HCM City to prepare for the AFC Futsal Championship next month.
The best national players will travel to Japan for their intensive course later this month before moving to Chinese Taipei for the tournament.
The biennial event gathers 16 of the strongest teams who compete in four groups with the two best ones advancing to the knock-out stage.
Việt Nam is in Group A with Malaysia, Bahrain and the hosts.
Four semi-finalists and the team that ranks fifth at the championships will grab their berths at the 2020 World Cup.
In 2016, Việt Nam was one of the four best teams of Asia. Together with Japan, Iran and Thailand they competed at the Colombia World Cup in October 2016.
The national women’s football team had a tough task at the AFC Women’s Cup as the draw put them in the same group with powerhouses Japan, South Korea and Australia in April.
The team is currently in a three-month summon with coach Mai Đức Chung in Hà Nội.
“We all know that our rivals are very strong. However, in football sometimes the strongest lose to the weakest. We are clear that we are a weaker team than all of them, but it helps us to practice and compete without pressure. I believe this will make us play well and who knows who will win, because there is a little luck for everyone,” said Chung.
After days in Hà Nội, Chung and his players will test with local clubs in three friendly matches before moving to China for a four-side international tournament in China later this month.
In late March, they will have a two-week training course and friendlies in Germany before flying to Jordan for their Asian Cup.
In 2014, Việt Nam missed their World Cup ticket after losing 1-2 to Thailand in a play-off match although they played on home turf.
Việt Nam’s U-16 finished second in the 18th edition AFC U-16 Championship qualifier’s group round and confirmed their finals’ berth last September.
They will join 15 other teams in the finals, which will take place in Malaysia between September 20 and October 7.
Việt Nam is in the pot 2 of seeding teams together with Japan, South Korea and Oman.
The top four teams in the tournament will qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup next year as the Asian representatives.
It will be Việt Nam’s eighth time at the continental tournament. The first time was in 2000, which also saw their best result — fourth position.
The biennial AFC U-19 Championship will take place in Indonesia with a total of 16 participants.
Việt Nam won all of their three matches at the qualification to take their berth in the finals.
With their outstanding performance, the Vietnamese, for the first time in history, are in the pot 1 group together with defending champions Japan, runners-up Saudi Arabia, and the hosts.
The tournament will be organised in October.
The top four teams in the tournament will qualify for the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup as the AFC representatives.
In the previous seven times that they participated, Việt Nam’s best result was second place after the group round in 2016 and they grabbed a berth in the 2017 South Korean U-20 World Cup.
As usual, the ASEAN Football Federation Cup always receives supporters’ attention. This year, the Cup will be the most important event of the year with the participation of the national men’s squad.
“Despite a regional tournament, AFF Cup is one of the most-watched events among Vietnamese football lovers. It is a tournament to value the development of the team compared with teams in the ASEAN zone. The Việt Nam Football Federation has made a careful plan for the event,” said VFF Vice President, Trần Quốc Tuấn.
At the Cup, apart from arch-rival Thailand, who are the defending champions, Việt Nam has to defeat runners-up Indonesia, Myanmar and Malaysia, the teams in the same level, if they want to win again.
This year, the national team with many members of the U-23 squad under South Korean Park, are expected to make a break.
A match at the 2019 Asian Cup against Jordan in March and the Asian U-23 Championships are considered crucial to prepare for the AFF Cup. VFF sets a target for a slot in the final match.
“We have been absent in the final since 2010. This time we need to work well. I believe that with long and careful preparation, players will be in their best form for the tournament,” said Tuấn.
Việt Nam won the Cup once in 2008. — VNS