Vietnam aim for World Cup last-16 round hinh anh 1Coach Bruno Garcia urges his players during their practice in Colombia on September 7 (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnam are in high spirits, hoping to enter the last-16 round at their first World Cup campaign, which will kick off this week in Colombia.

Vietnam upset Asian champions Japan to enter the World Cup final, spending a month training intensively and competing at other events.

The team gathered together in late July and traveled to Spain and Argentina to compete against strong futsal clubs to gain experience.

“We have prepared very carefully for the World Cup. A long-term training course and the best coaches and conditions were given to the players,” Tran Anh Tu, Vietnam Futsal Department chief, said.

“My team are not underdogs in this tournament. Teams will have to look at us with respect,” he added.

“Our goal is a last-16 berth. It will be a huge success for us because the World Cup is never easy.”

Following their unexpected win over Japan, the team are expected to put up a good show in Colombia, although they are considered one of the weakest teams at the global event.

Coach Bruno Garcia is even more confident than his boss. The Spanish expert hopes to push Vietnam to the last-eight round.

Vietnam require at least four points from three matches in Group C.

Their first rival Guatemala is likely to be the easiest team to defeat. Guatemala are No. 24 in the world. It is their fourth World Cup. They were eliminated in the group round in previous tournaments.

Vietnam will play Guatemala early on September 12, Hanoi time.

The second game is against Paraguay, world No 11, who have qualified five times for the World Cup final. Their best result has been the last-16 round.

Experts say Vietnam may win points from the first two group matches, but their last game against Italy is the real challenge.

Vietnam are No 42 and Italy are No 4, according to FIFA’s latest ranking released early this month.

Vietnam are freshmen at the event, while Italy have won the bronze medal twice - in 2008 and 2012. This year, they are No 5 at the European championship, following their triumph in 2014.

Garcia says the World Cup is always tough. The teams are strong and are ranked higher than Vietnam. But, he believes that by using the right strategy for each match, Vietnam can cause an upset.

Coach Truong Quoc Tuan also expressed his encouragement.

“If they can play as they did in the recent friendly games against Egypt, Spain and Argentina, I think they have a chance to advance to the next round,” Tuan, coach of the Vietnamese women’s futsal team, said.

“An ideal plan will be a win over Guatemala, a draw against Paraguay and a minimum loss to Italia. Of course it is not easy because they are better than us in both physique and technique. We must play to our advantage while limiting their power; we can then go through,” the former national member said.

He said Vietnam, at present, have qualified players, such as captain Nguyen Bao Quan, Van Vu and Quoc Nam, who score regularly, while Thai Huy and Trong Luan can shine in counter-attacks.

Goalkeepers Dinh Thuan and Van Huy are also performing well and constitute 50 percent of the team’s strength.

The tournament will kick off on September 10 with 24 teams, divided into six groups, vying for the cup. Only the two top teams of each group and the four best third-placed squads will advance to the second stage.-VNA