New Vietnam coach Troussier aims for 2026 World Cup qualification
Philippe Troussier, Vietnam's new football coach, appreciates the legacy of his predecessor Park Hang-seo and is positive about Vietnam's goal to qualify for the upcoming World Cup.
"I’m happy and proud to be here to coach Vietnam," Troussier said in the press conference, after signing the contract to be the head coach of Vietnam men's national football team and U23 team in Hanoi.
"After all, I came back to Vietnam, a country that I loved during my previous three years of working here. I understand the importance of my job. I will try my best to overcome any challenge. I appreciate the trust that VFF has in me, especially its president Tran Quoc Tuan."
Troussier's 3.5-year deal with VFF (Vietnam Football Federation) will last from March 1, 2023 to July 1, 2026. His tasks are to defend the men’s football gold medal in SEA Games 32 as well as winning the 2024 AFF Cup. The French coach is also expected to help Vietnam qualify for the 2026 World Cup, especially when the number of participating team in the main event has increased to 48.
"To achieve the targets, I will start from zero. The previous coach Park Hang-seo has left a legacy, which is a competitive team. His legacy and my experience will be a good stepping stone for us to complete our next journey," Troussier added.
According to Troussier, the upcoming international tournaments like SEA Games 32, the 2023 Asian Cup, 2024 Olympic Paris and AFF Cup will be great opportunities for Vietnam to play strong teams and accumulate more experience to aim for the ultimate goal, which is the 2026 World Cup.
"The expansion of World Cup from 32 to 48 teams is a good chance for Vietnam. This is the final goal that we aim for. Of course, it’s full of ambition, but not out of reach. But I can’t do it alone, because I’m just the guide on the challenging journey ahead. This is a goal for the coaching team, the players and also the fans. I believe if we aim for the same goal and put our maximum effort in, we can do it," he said.
Troussier revealed that he only accepted the offer from VFF when he knew that Vietnamese football has the ambition to qualify for the World Cup.
Under coach Park Hang-seo, from 2018-2023, Vietnam achieved immense success with the 2018 AFF Cup title, gold medals in SEA Games 2019 and 2021, runner-up at the U23 AFC Championship and made it to the last round of the 2022 World Cup.
Troussier said Park has done an excellent job with these achievements but Vietnamese football will have to continue facing bigger and tougher challenges, aside from keeping their position in Southeast Asia.
The 67-year-old coach felt emotional during his introduction as the new Vietnam head coach, just like when he became the coach of Japan in 1998. Troussier believes that he is having a talented and dedicated team with many passionate supporters.
"I really want to connect people through football, because this sport is highly motivational. I hope my words are delivered to the Vietnamese football supporters so people can understand my determination on our next journey. This is a moment that I will never forget," he said.
SEA Games 32 in Cambodia will be the first big tournament of Troussier with Vietnamese football. The French coach set the target for the U23 team to win the goal medal. He also emphasized that this event is just a part of the journey to the 2026 World Cup, and winning the gold medal is only one of the goals besides training and recognizing new talents.
"I’m responsible for both the national team and U23 team, but I don’t see them as two separate teams. I also want to take a look at players from the U20 team, because in order to prepare for World Cup qualification, the core of Vietnam national team will have to be players from 22 to 26 years old," Troussier added.
The head coach also said he will build and organize the teams with the principle of choosing players based on their form instead of their age or fame.
"The national team are not a club and my mission is to identify and use players who are at their best form. I think each game is different, so the formation and tactics need to be adjusted based on the opponent. This principle is widely used in world football," he said.
Troussier brought two French assistants with him, physical coaches Cedric Roger and Moulay Azzeggouarh. Roger has worked with coach Park Hang-seo in many tournaments of Vietnam in the past. In the future, he will recruit another foreign assistant to help him with the work on two teams. He also sent VFF a list of recommendations for Vietnamese assistants.
Dubbed the "White Witch Doctor" for his successful stint in Africa, Troussier has managed Ivory Coast, Nigeria, South Africa, and Burkina Faso.
His international career peaked during his stint in Japan (1998 - 2002) when he won the 2000 AFC Asian Cup.
Two years later, he led Japan to the final 16 at the 2002 World Cup, the country's best-ever run in the competition at the time. In 2020, the Asian Football Confederation named him one of the greatest coaches in Asian Cup history.
Troussier acted as a strategic adviser and then technical director of the Promotion Fund of Vietnamese Football Talent (PVF) Academy in 2018.
One year later, he was appointed head coach of Vietnam's U19 squad, which he helped qualify for the 2020 U19 AFC Championship, which was later canceled due to Covid-19. He left after his contract with VFF expired in June 2021.
The U23 team will have their first training period with Troussier from March 1 to 7. This is one of the four training periods of the team in preparation for SEA Games 32 in May.