A surprise victory in their opening match, and a heavy defeat in their second: that is Vietnam’s record so far at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016, the country’s debut appearance at a FIFA competition.
As you might expect for a squad stepping on to the big stage for the very first time, especially one that also happens to be among the youngest in the tournament, the Vietnamese are experiencing highs and lows in Colombia. In spite of the novelty of the occasion, however, their chances of advancing to the last 16 of the competition remain intact.
The task awaiting the Asian side in their final game against title contenders Italy is clear enough, with a win or a draw sufficient to take them through to the knockout phase. Yet as their Spanish coach Bruno Garcia acknowledged, facing the Italians is a daunting prospect. Discussing the match and the impact of his side’s Colombia 2016 campaign in an interview with FIFA.com, he said: “No matter what happens, I know that Vietnamese futsal will come out of this tournament much, much stronger.”
Old heads, young shoulders
Judging by the players he has at his disposal, Garcia’s observation is well founded. Take pivot Minh Tri Nguyen, for example. Four years ago, at the tender age of 16, he decided he wanted to be a part of the Futsal World Cup after watching Thailand 2012 on TV. Not content with making that dream come true, Tri then marked his world-finals debut with a hat-trick.
Who better than the frontman, then, to offer some advice to any youngsters inspired by his stunning debut performance? “What would I say to them? I’d tell them to train hard and do their very best. They might end up playing at the World Cup too,” said Tri, who turned down an offer from an 11-a-side team at the age of ten so he could carry on playing futsal.
“I’d tell them to dream and to keep chasing that dream,” defender Van Vu Tran told FIFA.com. The only player to score in both Vietnam’s games to date, having got their fourth in the win over Guatemala and the consolation goal in the defeat to Paraguay, the 26-year-old economics and banking student added: “It’s very important for Vietnamese futsal that we’re here, but it’s also important for our football too. And I hope it helps other sports grow too.”
Both players display a maturity beyond their years, a quality that coach Garcia says they share with the rest of his squad: “I had my doubts as to how they were going to respond, not on the pitch but in terms of everything off it.”
He added: “The country has really got into futsal since the Asian Championship. There wasn’t that much support for it before, but the boys have a high profile now. It’s not easy to deal with success. I’ve been surprised at how they’ve shut themselves away from it and managed to play the way they’ve always played.”
The 7-1 defeat to the Paraguayans in their second game proved to be another lesson in Vietnam’s learning process. “We were confident of putting in a good performance. We knew we might lose, but not by that margin,” team captain Bao Quan Nguyen told FIFA.com.
Explaining the reasons behind that heavy defeat, the 33-year-old wing said: “We made too many mistakes, which is where a lot of the goals came from. In contrast, we failed to make the most of their errors.” The oldest player in the Vietnam squad, Quan looked on the bright side: “The important thing now is to learn: we need to be more focused and play with more spirit. We lacked both those things.”
Ten years a futsal player, Quan is aware of the stature of their next rivals and the chances his side having of beating them, but insisted that Vietnam have nothing to lose: “The tournament is not over yet. Futsal is an unpredictable sport and it might just be our turn again.”