Việt Nam / Vietnam
- Capital: Hanoi / Hà Nội
- Official Languages: Vietnamese
- Nicknames: Những Chiến Binh Sao Vàng (Golden Star Warriors); Những Cô Gái Vàng (The Golden Girls)
- Association: Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) / Liên Đoàn Bóng Đá Việt Nam
- FIFA Code: VIE
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Asian Cup Result (Men): Fourth Place (1956 & 1960 as South Vietnam); Quarter Finals (2007 & 2019 as Vietnam)
- Best Asian Cup Result (Women): Sixth Place (2014)
- Best AFF Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (2008 & 2018)
- Best AFF Cup Result: (Women): WINNERS (2006, 2012, & 2019)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 84th (September 1998)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 28th (June 2013)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 172nd (December 2006)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 43rd (Various)
- Most Capped Player: Đoàn Thị Kim Chi – 109 caps
- Top Scorer: Lưu Ngọc Mai – 57 goals
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Cộng hòa Xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam) is a southeast Asian country located along the eastern edge of the Indochinese peninsula, and along the western coast of the South China Sea, with a population of over 96 million making it the world’s sixteenth-most populous country. The long country shares land borders with a number of countries with China PR to its northern frontier, Laos along the majority of its western border, and Cambodia to the southwest. Originally part of the French colony of Indochina, Vietnam gained its independence in 1954, but following a bloody period when the country was split between North and South Vietnam during the Cold War, the country was finally reunited into its current state in 1976. Football has been played in the country since the late 19th century with the sport being introduced by French colonialists although it wouldn’t be until post-WW2 when football in the country became more organised. South Vietnam was the first part of the country to join FIFA in 1952, with its northern counterpart following in 1964 when they also joined the AFC, and the unified country becoming an AFF member in 1996.
Vietnam has never qualified for the World Cup but they have played in the Asian Cup on four occasions. South Vietnam took part in the very first two editions of the continental competition in 1956 and 1960, qualifying as the ‘Central Zone’ winners, although on both occasions they finished bottom of the four-team group without winning any of their games. Sadly due to the conflict which occured in the country, and its lengthy aftermath, it wouldn’t be until the mid-1990s when Vietnam finally returned to qualifying for either the World Cup or Asian Cup, although they were still unable to qualify for any tournament.
Vietnam finally made their first appearance in the Asian Cup in the 2007 edition as one of the four ASEAN co-hosts, their first appearance at a major tournament in 47 years. The co-hosts surprised Asian football when they progressed beyond the group stage and reached the knockout stage before losing 2-0 to eventual winners Iraq, during their fairytale route to the trophy. The Golden Star Warriors would also claim their first piece of silverware in the following year when they won the 2008 AFF Championship beating Thailand 3-2 on aggregate, in a successful period of time for Vietnam. Alas it would take another ten years before they would achieve success once again. Firstly they claimed their second AFF Cup in 2018, by beating Malaysia 3-2 on aggregate, before qualifying for their second Asian Cup as an unified nation for the 2019 competition. Vietnam finished as one of the best third-placed group sides after finishing behind both Iran and Iraq before coming up against Jordan in the Round of 16. Vietnam managed to surprisingly beat the strong favourites Jordan on penalties after a 1-1 to match their accomplishments of 2008, and put up an excellent performance against Japan in the quarter-finals, but unfortunately lost the game 1-0.
Because of their performances in the 2019 Asian Cup, confidence is high amongst the Vietnamese camp that this generation of players could perhaps achieve something special for the country. Also the V.League (the top flight of Vietnamese football) is rapidly improving within Asian football circles and developing decent players for the national team, with its top teams also performing admirably in the AFC Champions League. Currently they look set to qualify for their second consecutive Asian Cup and progress to the third round of World Cup qualifying as they’re currently top of their qualifying group undefeated (at the time of writing), ahead of such teams as Malaysia, Thailand, and the UAE. Perhaps the golden era of Vietnamese football may be on the near horizon…
To talk about a side who reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 Asian Cup and look set to be experiencing their golden era in terms of results, performances, and the quality of players within the national team, we interviewed the excellent Việt Nam Football. They are an English-language Twitter account which reports on all news involving Vietnamese football, whether it involve Vietnamese players, the ongoings in the V.League, or the national team. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @FootyVietnam
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
The best-ever player is probably someone who’s playing now as it is Vietnam’s best era currently. They have talented players like Nguyễn Quang Hải, Nguyễn Công Phượng, Nguyễn Văn Toàn, Phan Văn Đức, and many more. But for now, it is surely Lê Công Vinh, in my opinion, as he’s the still the player with the most caps and goals for the men’s national team [scoring 51 goals in 83 appearances for Vietnam between 2004 and 2016].
The best-ever trainer, in my opinion, is the current head coach Park Hang-seo. He led our U23 side to their first ever AFC final, won the AFF Cup in 2018, and has had good results in the Asian Cup, as well as in the World Cup qualification right now. Vietnam’s football is developing thanks to him. Still, Henrique Calisto was also a good manager. He also won the AFF Cup in 2008, but as I said previously, it is currently Vietnam’s golden time.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
Lê Công Vinh, as mentioned previously. He’s now a little off the public radar nowadays but is still remembered by the fans. Nguyễn Anh Đức should also be one. A veteran forward who is 35-years-old [currently playing for Long An] but still playing in the current national team and has scored some important goals. There are many more players maybe but they came to my mind first.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Vietnamese national side currently?
Not really easy to decide. Many players of the current team would deserve that title but I’d say Đoàn Văn Hậu [full-back currently playing for Hà Nội FC]. He was loaned out to Dutch Eredivisie club SC Heerenveen in 2019, however he didn’t play much but has improved well in tactics and physics since his loan move. Nguyễn Quang Hải would be one of the most popular answers you’d get (I advice you to watch his goals at the AFC U23 Championship 2018 in China). Also Nguyễn Công Phượng who’s sometimes called the “Vietnamese Messi“. But I stick to Văn Hậu. He has made huge impressions in his AFC U19 Championship campaign, the above-mentioned AFC U23 Championship, and the Asian Cup in 2019, and therefore got to go to the Netherlands on loan. He’s still one of the youngest players at 22-years-old, but is a regular starter for the national team.
Quang Hải has only played and still is playing for Hà Nội FC although people thought he’d be one of the first to go to a foreign club after his performances in the AFC U23 Championship. Công Phượng also played abroad in Korea [for Incheon United] and Belgium [with Sint-Truiden] but didn’t make any impact for either team.
So, yeah, Đoàn Văn Hậu is my pick but the other two mentioned are still all talented players.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
Incredible, fantastic, amazing, thrilling, and satisfying. As I said previously and in my opinion, this is Vietnam’s best national team right now. Look at the results that the South Korean Park Hang-seo has achieved in his time as head coach. He’s praised by many Vietnamese people. We’re also on top of the table for the World Cup qualifiers right now, and with 3 games left to play, we should be going through to the next round of qualifying. Mr. Park has stated previously that he wants to go to the World Cup with Vietnam. If he gets there, he’ll be a legend in Vietnam (although you can say he already is). Still, results are close and Park is continuously improving but the hope is there. So there is nothing to complain about our current situation.
Q. Are there any Vietnamese players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
You should have asked me that question in 2016 or 2017. There are so many youth players who now play for the national team (look at the names that were given in the previous answers).
Right now, there is no one in our youth teams that actually stands out. However, if I have to pick one, I’d either pick midfielder Nguyễn Hai Long or forward Trần Danh Trung. Hai Long played a nice season for his club Than Quảng Ninh and is regarded as an exciting talent. Maybe also Danh Trung as he’s going to Japan in July to play for J.League 2 side Ryukyu FC. Hopefully they’ll be rising to the senior level sooner or later. We need those talents!
Q. Looking at the Vietnam’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
Hm… only the senior national team? Then I can’t include U23 Vietnam’s AFC Cup journey in 2018 where they got into the “snow final”… Vietnam’s history isn’t really that much of a success, still regardless, Park Hang-seo’s win of the AFF Cup was thrilling for me. I personally loved the match against Japan in the AFC Cup in 2019 in the quarter-finals. We lost 0-1 but it was still an amazing journey and performance to keep up against one of Asia’s giants in Japan.
- AFC’s Highlights of Vietnam vs. Japan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lo4cp0wa1wc
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
I wouldn’t even say there is a lowest point. Not because Vietnam has been so good, but because they were never that good like they are now. Only now they are good, but before Park Hang-seo, Vietnam may be considered a little under average of the football countries. You can say though that the defeats against rivals Thailand have always been devastating.
- AFC’s Highlights of Vietnam vs. Thailand in 2018 World Cup Qualifying: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9dybr2TMfU
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Vietnamese national team?
The best thing about being a fan is the enthusiasm of the whole country. You should look at the streets of Vietnam when Vietnam won anything important. The fans went out on their mopeds with the country’s flag in their hand and praised and celebrated the national team as if there’s no tomorrow. The streets were literally full, you couldn’t go anywhere. I just love that about my country. Being that energetic and supportive of their national team, their culture, and their country, I love it. Makes me feel proud of being Vietnamese.
The worst thing would be some acts of violence against other teams by too patriotic fans. I remember some buses from other teams being attacked by our fans. But that’s rare actually.
I personally have no worse thing. I love the national team, I’ll support them forever, and I watch every game. Can’t wait for next month when they play their last 3 matches of the World Cup qualifiers!
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
The national anthem, of course, is sung passionately by players, staff, and fans in the stadium. With the hand on our heart, we’ll give everything to win the match. Some folk songs are played during the match but not for long. And if you know them, vuvuzelas are still used in Vietnam which makes the stadium very noisy. But we just cheer them, and on every attack, the fans get louder. After the match, we’ve adopted the ‘Viking Clap‘ from Iceland. It inspired us and made us “being in sync” with our players.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
I do not have a national team shirt but I’d like to buy one someday. So… sorry, can’t answer that question sadly.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Vietnamese national team?
Our goal for now is to reach the World Cup. I really hope to achieve that now or near in the future. That would be the greatest achievement ever for Vietnam.
However, I still hope for Vietnam to win many more tournaments (AFF Cup, Asian Cup, the youth international competitions, also the V.League clubs who are internationally represented in the AFC Cup or AFC Champions League) but that’s of course somehow utopic. I’ll revise that and maybe let’s say I expect fighting performances and good results. Getting into the semi-finals of a major AFC tournament would be amazing too. But I look confidently and maybe a little too patriotic into the future!
Let’s hope their future will be bright and I hope to see them one day in a World Cup!
A massive cảm ơn rât nhiều to Việt Nam Football for answering our questions on the Golden Star Warriors. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
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