Vietnam confident ahead of U17 Asian Cup
Despite some tough matches ahead, coach Hoang Anh Tuan is confident his Vietnam U17 team will perform well at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U17 Asian Cup in Thailand.
Vietnam will play defending champions Japan, powerhouse Uzbekistan and India in Group D. Their campaign will begin on June 17 against India.
India matched their best finish from 2002 when they reached the quarter-finals in 2018 meanwhile Vietnam best finish was fourth in 2000.
It is Japan's 14th consecutive involvement and 16th overall – both records – in this continental tournament. The Japanese won three titles in 1994, 2006 and 2018 – the most of any team.
Uzbekistan were the 2012 champions.
Vietnam, Uzbekistan and Japan secured their places in the finals after they were all unbeaten in the qualifying rounds.
Japan and Vietnam displayed steely defensive performances, securing their places without conceding a single goal.
"Japan are strong in all national team levels. Vietnam often choose Japan as a destination for training courses prior to big events, mainly because of the country's high football quality," said Tuan.
"India played very well in the qualifier, beating their rivals with high scores. They even had draws with Uzbekistan, meaning that they are not bad at all.
"Uzbekistan are good from junior level to U23s. Their wins at the Asian U23 championship titles in 2018 and Asian U20s in 2022 proved their ability as young footballers.
"However, at the age of U17, players are still learning. All assessment is on paper. The importance is the preparation for them in both profession and spirit.
Tuan's teens travelled to Qatar and Japan to train ahead of the championship. Among their friendly matches, they drew 0-0 with Laos, beat Qatar 2-0 and lost 0-2 to Yemen.
"Vietnam had one month to train and earned positive results in friendlies that helped us to have experience and make adjustments to be confident for this competition," Tuan said.
The group stage will conclude on June 23 before the quarter-finals start two days later, with the champions to be crowned on July 2 at the final in Pathum Thani Stadium.
The Asian Cup is a qualification for the FIFA U17 World Cup 2023. The top four will be AFC’s representatives at the global showpiece in November.
Players to watch
India advanced from a tough qualifying group that included Saudi Arabia and forward Thanglalsoun Gangte's five goals played a major role in them securing a third consecutive appearance at the finals.
Japan scored for fun in the qualifiers, finding the back of the net 15 times in Group A but crucially, conceded none.
The major reason for that was defender Kotaro Honda, with the captain marshalling what proved to be an impenetrable defence and more will be expected from him as Japan look to retain the title after having won the AFC U16 Championship 2018.
Lazizbek Mirzaev played the captain's role to perfection as Uzbekistan topped Group J of the qualifiers.
The midfielder scored four goals, including one in the 3-2 win against the Republic of Korea and he will lead the charge as Uzbekistan look to add the title to the AFC U20 Asian Cup 2023 crown already in their possession.
Midfielder Nguyen Cong Phuong looked destined for a successful career after guiding Vietnam into the finals in stellar fashion.
His leadership qualities aside, the midfielder also contributes two goals and Vietnam will be looking to their skipper for an inspired run in the tournament./.