Ex-player and now pundit Vu Manh Hai tells VnExpress in an interview that coach Philippe Troussier underestimated the experience factor when picking his squad, leading to Vietnam’s early exit from the 2023 Asian Cup.
What are the reasons for Vietnam’s 0-1 defeat to Indonesia in the Asian Cup on Friday?
There were a few reasons for this loss. Firstly, it must be admitted that Indonesia have improved thanks to the addition of some Spain- and the Netherlands-born players. Their quality and physique allowed Indonesia to press in all areas of the pitch.
However, Indonesia have yet to become superior to Vietnam. I think we must acknowledge the mistakes we made in this defeat and not blame it on anyone else. There were clearly many miscalculations, from the way we approached the match and choice of players to the changes made by Troussier during the match, and I think he should be the first to take responsibility for the loss.
Secondly, Vietnam have been affected by the injuries to Nguyen Dinh Bac, Pham Tuan Hai and Nguyen Van Tung.
But once again this shows that Troussier has misjudged the level of his players. He expects too much from youngsters, and even rates them higher than the more senior players. In reality, hard as they tried, the young players still lack experience and were not able to perform at the highest level against tricky opponents. Perhaps Troussier rates the young players as highly as the likes of Nguyen Quang Hai and Nguyen Hoang Duc, but that would be a mistake.
Strike Nguyen Van Tung (number 24) lies down with injuries during Vietnam’s 0-1 loss to Indonesia at the Asian Cup group stage, Jan. 19, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa
After the match, Troussier said defender Nguyen Thanh Binh’s minor error affected the result. [Binh pulled the shirt of an Indonesian player inside the box in the 40th minute and Indonesia were rewarded a penalty to score the game’s only goal.] What do you think of this statement?
This is above all a defeat for the entire team, not just him.
In the situation that led to Indonesia’s penalty, I think Binh could have done much better. He should have only slightly pulled the player to make him lose his balance. The tournament uses VAR, and so players must be very careful with every action. Even the smallest foul can be detected. It was a rather silly mistake, partly because Binh is still inexperienced.
If you had been in Troussier’s shoes, what adjustments would you have made in the Indonesia game?
I would not have used so many young players while more experienced ones like Do Hung Dung, Ho Tan Tai and Vu Van Thanh were sitting on the bench. It was very risky, and I do not think any coach other than Troussier would do it. Southeast Asian teams are at a similar level, meaning playing an under-23 team spells defeat for me.
I believe Troussier is quite conservative. Experience is very important in football. The players that I just mentioned have competed on so many big stages, and they know how to control the tempo or win a duel against an opponent like Indonesia.
I am not comparing the senior and the young players’ abilities. Troussier may think that their abilities are similar, but he should have put more trust in the senior players that he had called up.
Forward Nguyen Van Toan (number 9), a senior member of Vietnam national team, in a tackle with Justin Hubner after being subbed in in the 72th minute in Vietnam’s 0-1 loss to Indonesia at the Asian Cup group stage, Jan. 19, 2024. Photo by VnExprses/Lam Thoa
Losing to an opponent who were once considered an underdog and have not beaten us in the last five years seems to make fans much more disappointed than usual. How about you?
I am very angry, to be honest. Vietnam and Indonesia, particularly under coach Shin Tae-yong, have a feud. When Park Hang-seo was still in charge of Vietnam, Indonesia always lost to us fair and square, but this time it was the opposite. We played such a disappointing match and were totally dominated. Our chances mostly came when Indonesia slowed the game to maintain the scoreline and prevent their players from tiring.
Troussier has spoken of being at the World Cup several times. Do you think it is the reason why he has to plan for the future and use young players now?
Troussier has every right to use the players he wants, as he is the head coach. But I do not think there is any national team in the world that relies solely on youngsters, some of whom are not even regular starters at their club. I have never seen such a thing before. All of Vietnam’s past coaches always looked for the best players.
I feel what Troussier said contradicts what he did. For instance, he said he does not choose players based on their popularity or past achievements, and he only cares about their form. But the reality is that many of the players he picked do not even start for their club. Using them too much means there will be fewer opportunities for others.
Hence, I believe our problems not only lie in the way we play, but also our use of players. Under Park Hang-seo, Vietnam had a mix of young and experienced players. Troussier is too hasty with his use of youngsters.
I think it is time for the Vietnam Football Federation to look closer at the use of players in the national team. It is a problem that arose before the Indonesia game, and some had talked about this since last year. I understand that the federation would rather not intervene in any on-pitch issues, but I am also sure that not everyone is happy with the way the coach manages the team.
It is just that no one has taken action yet.
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