Vietnam’s football set out ambitious goals hinh anh 1Vietnamese U23 squad’s captain Nguyen Cong Phuong passes Malaysian keeper Ahmad Syihan Hazmi Mohamed during a friendly match (Source: VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) - With ambitious plans, proven results and a busy schedule, Vietnamese fooballers are working hard and earning their fans’ support.

The U16 team advanced to the quarterfinals of the Asian championship for the first time in 16 years. The U19 team bagged a berth in the FIFA World Cup U20 for the first time in history. The women’s U16 and U19 squads were successful at the Asian qualification rounds and advanced to the final. The futsal team competed in the quarter-finals of the Colombia World Cup on their debut.

The best may be yet to come: according to the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF), 12 national teams will participate in international tournaments this year.

Among them, the men’s U15 and U18 squads will compete at the ASEAN championships and the Asian championship qualifications. The women’s U16s and U19s teams, meanwhile, will play at the Asian championship finals.

Notably, the U22 team will participate in the all-important 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Malaysia in August. Earlier, the U20 squad will compete at the World Cup final in South Korea in May and the national team will participate in the 2019 Asian Cup’s final qualification next month.

The national team were the only squad that did not successfully complete their task at last year’s ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup and will have to win fans’ hearts again by winning a berth to the Asian Cup’s final round, an event that will begin March 28.

Paired in a group with Jordan, Afghanistan and Cambodia, Vietnam, world No 136, are aiming for the second position in the group, ranking behind No 107 Jordan.

The young U20 team will make their debut at a world-level event this year, but coaches are hopeful for a win in the group round.

At the World Cup, the team will compete against Argentina, Brazil and Portugal.

“It is an honour and also a challenge for the players as they have secured a berth at the World Cup. However, they are still at a lower level compared with their rivals, even those in Asia. I think there is no better chance than this for them to gain experience and learn something from the World Cup,” VFF Vice President Tran Quoc Tuan said.

“However, they should not be satisfied with this limited success. They must take inspiration from the futsal team – with careful preparation through training and friendly competitions, they were one of the top eight at the World Cup last year,” he said.

Despite competing all over the world, the SEA Games title is, however, always the most coveted for Vietnam.

The team are seeking their first gold medal at the games this August.

“We have talented players and all are excited to emerge victorious. But we should study our rivals so we can prepare better for our journey, not only for the SEA Games, but also for other tournaments in the future,” Tuan said.

This year there is good news for Asian countries — the World Cup 2026 will be extended to 48 teams and the Asian continent will have four more slots — opening the door for more teams, including Vietnam.

“There are different ideas, but in my opinion, the extension will help narrow the gap between Asian teams and teams from Europe and South America. It also makes qualification rounds more competitive, while federations will strongly support their teams to increase their opportunities,” Tuấn, the only Vietnamese official at the Asian Football Confederation, said.

However, he said the Vietnamese national team could take part in the World Cup if the young squads are regular participants at world cups for the youth.

“It is in 2026, so we have several years to build our plan. But the solution lies in developing youth football,” Tuan said.

The futsal team also expects high results this year following their great performance in 2016.

The team beat defending champions Japan in the quarterfinals of the Asian championship in February, following which they made the nation proud by securing a berth at the World Cup’s last-eight round.

At the club level, Thai Son Nam grabbed a silver medal of the Asian Futsal Club Championship.

Their next events will be the ASEAN Championship, the Asian Indoor Games and the crucial SEA Games.

“We have had outstanding achievements last year. We need to maintain our performance for the upcoming events. We are confident of reaching the final round at the regional tournaments and especially at the SEA Games this August,” captain Nguyen Bao Quan said.

The team were also preparing for their long-term target, eyeing the second World Cup berth in 2020.

“Our result in 2016 was not by chance. It resulted from our 10-year preparation with methodical plan and strong support,” Tran Anh Tu, head of VFF’s Futsal Department, said.-VNA