In an interview with Vietnam Football Federation, coach Mai Duc Chung said it’s remarkable Vietnam could qualify for Women’s World Cup despite a player shortage due to Covid-19.
How did you feel when Vietnam secured 2023 Women’s World Cup qualification?
I must say it’s a miracle, not just because we have qualified for the World Cup, but since no team has been able to achieve such a great feat after being hit by Covid-19. We have managed to play six games in 16 days, all thanks to our resilience and team spirit.
The players showed their determination. We also had suitable plans to help them improve their stamina. It’s painful to watch my players run on low stamina since some have just recovered (from Covid-19). I was once a player so I really sympathized with them, especially as women. Therefore, I only put those players on for about 10 minutes, just so they could get familiar with the field.
What did you do to boost the players mentally?
Each coach has their own way of encouraging their players and I’m no exception. In the team, there were players who were too tired after 10 days without training, so their touch on the ball was not good. At that time, I could only encourage them to try harder and if we do it, we do it together. They just need to play comfortably – the responsibility is mine. Every single person on the team had to overcome their own obstacles, or else it would have impossible to get this achievement. There were times when we thought we won’t be able to play, but we made it through.
When the first group flew to India, there were only 11 members (head coach, manager, six players and four staff), we were so worried. Three of the six players had a stamina problem. All I could do was try maintain their form during training.
Coach Mai Duc Chung stands on the sideline during the game between Vietnam and South Korea in the Women’s Asian Cup in India on January 21, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Thu Trang
What are some of the tactical changes you and the coaching staff made in this tournament?
Tactics are really important. For games against Japan, South Korea and China, we had to calculate carefully to field the best lineup.
We also have a strategy for each game. For instance, when we faced China in the quarterfinals, we knew they are a strong team in Asia, having won the title before, so we didn’t need to win that game at any cost. Instead, our target was to preserve our stamina for the playoffs against Thailand and Taiwan. Our calculation proved correct.
What plans do you have for the team at 2023 Women’s World Cup?
After the game with Taiwan, I didn’t sleep because I was too happy and busy thinking about the plans for SEA Games, Women’s AFF Cup and World Cup. We are thinking about some potential young players that we can call up to support the team. We will ask Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) to get the team on training trips overseas so they can learn and improve more. In the far future, we also want to develop the next generation of players.
VFF is developing two batches at the Promotional Fund of Vietnamese Football Talent Academy (PVF). We hope clubs will cooperate to open more youth training courses, in order to recruit more young talents. The government should also invest and open more schools for talents so they can have a better opportunity to develop.
Vietnam players celebrate after scoring against China in Women’s Asian Cup in India on January 30, 2022. Photo by Asian Football Confederation
Many said you have managed to use more young players in the team while still winning titles. What do you think about this?
Everyone knows that in a game, I never field a squad with only experienced players. There has to be a balance in my lineup. I will put young players on the field so they can gain more experience and fit into the team better. That’s my intention. When the opponent is low on stamina, I often sub in young players like Nguyen Thi Thanh Nha for more pace and strength to increase the offense. It’s a common tactical move.
We are heavily invested, sent to train abroad and reinforced with VFF’s homegrown players. We have to be confident so players can give their best. Personally, I always want experienced and young players to compete together and create a connection. My wish is that (young players) will gain enough experience and composure during the game.
Do you expect the historic feat this year is a stepping stone for women’s football in Vietnam to attract more fans and sponsors?
In the past, we still had fans and sponsors, but not all the time. After this tournament, I think more people will pay attention to us. But we don’t think about it that much, because the General Department of Physical Education and Sports along with VFF always support and care about us. Thanks to that, we have become who we are today. Of course, we would be really glad if there were more sponsors because that would help us plenty.
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