In last year’s humiliating AFF Suzuki Cup (Southeast Asian Cup) campaign in Malaysia and Thailand Phan Thanh Hùng’s side failed to win a game in a straight-forward looking group.
This resulted in the national coach getting the axe and the national team’s woeful performances up for debate by a bemused public.
Coaches seem to come and go on a yearly basis with the men’s football team appearing to be heading in the wrong direction but it wasn’t always the case.
The national team in 2008 won the AFF Cup in some style, 12 months after reaching the Asian Cup last eight before narrowly losing to eventual champions Iraq.
Since that step in the right direction, though, they have gone backwards.
However, the nation’s saviors have appeared in a rather more curvaceous form.
This is one set of players who have brought back some credibility to this football-mad country.
Let’s hear it for the ladies.
The women’s national team has not only won a number of regional trophies but they recently qualified for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup and are tipped by many to go all the way to the World Cup itself.
How many years will it take their male counterparts to achieve this?
With no expense spared the women’s team is on its way to long-term training camps in Japan and South Korea to prepare for the eight-team Asian Cup.
Local media reports state that the Việt Nam Football Federation (VFF) and Eximbank awarded VND1 billion (US$47,600) to the team after its qualification success.
The team returned to Việt Nam last week and will get together in August to prepare for the Southeast Asian Women’s Football Championships in Myanmar from September 24 to October 6.
Next year’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup was supposed to be held in Japan, however there has been a u-turn and at the end of last week the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) officially offered Việt Nam the right to host the event, the VFF announced.
AFC representatives will fly to Việt Nam to check the facilities and conduct necessary procedures before signing the contract with the VFF to organize the event.
One report quoted Trần Quốc Tuấn, a member of FIFA’s Futsal Committee, who said:
“The AFC believes that Việt Nam, with its experience of hosting the 2007 AFC Asian Cup and the AFC Women’s 2008 Asian Cup, will successfully organize the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, expected to take place from May 14-25, 2014.”
A top five finish in the Asian Cup and Việt Nam will be on their way to the promise land – the 2015 World Cup Finals in Canada which would stamp the nation on the world football map.
But first things first, Vietnam will join the other group winners Thailand and Myanmar in the Asian finals.
There is also one other team to come from Uzbekistan, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kuwait who begin their qualifying round on June 5.
The four group winners join the four automatic qualifiers – Australia, Japan, China and South Korea – in the eight-team event. North Korea, though, won’t be coming to Vietnam after a ban due to a doping scandal.
Many local experts believe the Việt Nam team is not just going there to talk the talk like their male counterparts, these ladies are going there to grab a top five place and who would bet against a team that scores goals and lift titles for fun.
Earlier this month they scored 24 goals in three qualifying victories over Hong Kong, Bahrain and Kyrgyzstan.
North Korea’s ban has opened the door for Việt Nam.
Local football experts insist that Japan, Australia, China and South Korea should have the top four wrapped up barring a disaster.
However, with Việt Nam now on home soil that fifth World Cup spot is looking more attainable.
And they will be favorites to do so, but the ladies’ team has proved in the past that they not only handle the pressure but are winners.
The Vietnamese ladies’ team has lifted the Southeast Asian Games crown now an amazing four times and have won the AFF Cup (Southeast Asian championships) twice.
This has all occurred since the turn of the century.
Now we are constantly told about how macho a country Việt Nam is, hmm.
It looks to me like the women here not only hold the power of households and families and also starting to run the show business-wise, but now they are making a claim on the Beautiful Game.
It is time for the men to start hitting back and try to give the football-crazy nation two national teams to be proud of.
By DEREK MILROY