Vietnam face uphill task against Australia in Olympic play-off

The Vietnam national women’s team face Australia today, with a spot at the Tokyo Olympics on the line.

The first leg of the Asian qualification play-off will take place at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle.

It is the first time in history, Vietnam, world No 32, have made the play-off and stand one step away from the Olympics.

Though Australia, world No 7, are heavy favourites, the Vietnamese players and coaches are still optimistic about their chances.

“Australia rank seventh in the world and have competed in the World Cup many times. The chance to play with them is very valuable. I appreciate the hosts because they have a good physical background and are much more professional. We come here with a spirit of learning, but we will also play with the highest determination,” said head coach Mai Duc Chung at a press conference in Australia on March 5.

The Vietnamese coach said his side hope to avoid getting yellow cards, stay healthy and keep the score down.

According to Chung, Vietnamese women's football team are aiming for longer-term goals.

“Vietnam have a very young force and have just added four athletes from the U19 team. Our aim is to train young athletes to familiarise themselves with the environment of the senior team because they are the future,” said Chung.

Vietnam won’t have talented midfielder Chuong Thi Kieu for this game due to a long-standing knee injury.

Kieu was a key player for both HCM City FC which won the national championship last October and the national team that won the AFF Cup last August and their sixth Southeast Asian Games title in the Philippines in December.

“We have prepared and arranged players to replace Kieu. This has been a focus since the event’s group stage in South Korea,” said Chung.

Speaking to the the-afc.com, midfielder Nguyen Thi Tuyet Dung said she believed her side would unite as one to remain competitive with the star-studded Matildas.

“We don’t have our strongest possible team right now because some of the players have injuries, but we will try our best to have a good result.

“Our team, including myself, felt very happy when we were able to qualify for these play-off games. The whole team and I are excited for the first game here in Australia.”

Dung scored two goals when Vietnam lost 4-2 against the Australian U20 national team at the 2018 AFF Women’s Championship in Indonesia.

Australian head coach Ante Milicic is confident of taking a win.

“The first leg being at home, it’s very important we do well, we don’t concede and we look to convert the chances we create,” Milicic told the the-afc.com.

According to Milicic, Vietnam have made a lot of progress in recent years and their players have good technique.

“They will look to frustrate us and maybe catch us on the counter-attack. So it’s important we stick to our playing style and game plan. We have to be patient and we have to wait for the right opportunities,” said Milici.

Following the game in Australia, the second leg will take place at Cam Pha Stadium in the northern province of Quang Ninh on March 11.

Source: Vietnam News Agency