AFC U23 Championship

Head coach Park Hang-seo: Vietnam on the rise but challenges remain

Hanoi: Park Hang-seo has cautioned Vietnam that making the leap from ASEAN dominance to challenging Asia’s best won’t be easy and it is a step that can only be achieved with long term plans.

13/12/2019 17:00:08

Mr. Park has steered Vietnam to several successes since being appointed head coach in 2017, with the U23 team finishing runners-up in the 2018 AFC U23 Championship and the senior side winning the regional AFF Cup the same year, achieved after a 10-year wait.

That was followed by a quarter-final appearance in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 and on Tuesday, Vietnam ended a 60-year wait for the regional SEA Games gold.

The achievements have heightened expectations that Vietnam are ready to step up to the next level, by qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics through the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

“In Southeast Asia, we’ve accomplished our goals at both the U-23 and senior levels, but the important thing for us is to maintain our position,” Mr. Park said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

“We have the AFF Cup coming up next year and another SEA Games two years later. Just because we’re the best in Southeast Asia, that doesn’t mean we’ll be able to take on the world in just a couple of years.

“We need long-term plans to make it to the Olympics and the World Cup, and I don’t think it’ll be easy.”

Vietnam’s bid to qualify for the 2020 Olympics will begin in Group D of the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020, with DPR Korea, Jordan and United Arab Emirates their challengers.

The top two teams will progress to the quarter-finals but a place in Tokyo 2020 will only be sealed with a top three finish in the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020.

They are doing great in the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023, with Vietnam top of Group G with 11 points from five matches.

Winning the group will ensure a place in the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers and an automatic berth in the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Finals.

“For the AFC U23 Championship, we’ll try to make it to the knockout phase first and go from there,” Mr. Park said.

“For the Asian qualifiers, we’ll travel to Malaysia for our sixth match in March next year. If we win that, I think we’ll be in a pretty good position to reach the next round.”

Mr. Park said his success with Vietnam is mainly due to the tremendous support he has received since assuming the role of head coach.

“I couldn’t have done anything without the help of great coaches, supporting staff and players,” Mr. Park said. “I was able to earn the trust of the Vietnamese people, and that allowed me to sign an extension.”