Vietnam will play powerhouse Australia in a two-leg playoff next month, with a berth in the Tokyo Olympic Games in the summer on the line.
Mai Đức Chung’s players celebrate their 1-0 win over Myanmar in Group A of the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers at the Jeju World Cup Stadium last Thursday. Việt Nam are to play Australia in the playoffs. — Photo the-afc.com
Việt Nam finished second in the third qualification round’s Group B, while Australia finished top of their group after a 1-1 draw versus China on Thursday, setting up the clash with Việt Nam.
Securing an aggregate win and the nation's first-ever Olympic spot will be a tough task for coach Mai Đức Chung and his players.
Việt Nam are ranked 32 in the world and sixth in Asia, and have never competed in any World Cup or Olympics.
Meanwhile, the Matildas stand seventh in the world and are top in the continental rankings. They have taken part in seven out of eight World Cups and advanced to the quarter-finals three times in 2007, 2011 and 2015.
Australia have entered three Olympics and made the last-eight round twice.
In head-to-head meetings between two teams in the past 10 years, Việt Nam lost all seven matches, scoring two goals and conceding 37. In their latest meeting at the 2018 Asian Cup, Australia won 8-0.
Chung said he knows the scale of the challenge ahead of him.
“It is good for us to reach this playoff. The next rival will be very strong, even stronger than South Korea (who defeated Việt Nam 3-0 in the third qualifier),” said Chung.
“Australia are much stronger than us. They have good technique and physical stature. We will play counter-attack against them. Maybe this tactic won't be good enough as they are world-class but we will play with all iron will and ability,” he said.
Midfielder Nguyễn Thị Tuyết Dung also said Australia are the toughest rival for Việt Nam in her 10-year career.
“We may not be worse than some teams but Australia are different. They are better in terms of physique and technique,” she said.
“They are quick and strong. It would be impossible to race with them. I cannot point out their strongest point because they are perfect,” said Dung who was in the senior Vietnamese team that lost 4-2 to U20 Australia in the AFF Cup semi-finals in 2018.
“I think the best way is to limit our mistakes and cover our weak points so we can make something of the matches. Of course, we will not give up early but compete for national pride.”
The 70-year-old coach Chung said he will seek several friendly matches to prepare his team.
The COVID-19 outbreak would make it difficult to get an international team to come to Việt Nam, so he said he wants his players to play local men’s teams instead.
"If there is no international friendly, I would like to sharpen my players’ skills with several men’s team who are tall and big and good at high balls similar to the Australians,” said Chung.
In the coming matches, he will have his top midfielder Chương Thị Kiều back in action after she has fully recovered from her knee injury.
Experienced winger Phạm Hoàng Quỳnh and defender Đinh Thị Thùy Dung will also return to the team. Young talents will also have chances as there are some injured players in the first team.
“I want to give opportunities to young players who can show their talents because they will be the core of Việt Nam in the coming international tournaments, especially the 31st SEA Games in Hà Nội,” said Chung.
“All players will train hard to improve physique and the coaching board will choose the team after possible changes to be ready for games.”
The players will have a few days rest before returning to training next week in Hà Nội.
They will visit Australia on March 6 for the first leg and host them five days later at Quảng Ninh Province’s Cẩm Phả Stadium. VNS