HUNG YEN (VIETNAM) – After a profession that started in immediate noodles, Vietnam’s richest man is aware of all about lengthy pictures, and now he is taking one other: making an attempt to get the football-mad nation’s nationwide crew to their first World Cup.
No Southeast Asian crew has performed on soccer’s greatest stage, however Pham Nhat Vuong — CEO of the Vingroup conglomerate, and Vietnam’s first billionaire — has not let that deter him.
Vingroup’s gleaming, $15 million academy outdoors Hanoi has already helped Vietnam grow to be a rising energy in Asian soccer, after they reached the Asian Cup quarter-finals final yr.
The communist nation’s nationwide crew had been topped Southeast Asian champions in 2018, and their Underneath-22s received gold on the Southeast Asian Video games final December.
The Golden Star Warriors additionally sit high of their World Cup qualifying group, however they nonetheless have work to do if they’re to seize one among Asia’s 4 slots — or a fifth accessible via playoffs — for 2022.
Nonetheless, they will take coronary heart from the instance of World Cup hosts Qatar who, after constructing a state-of-the-art academy and drafting in international experience, swept to their first Asian Cup title final yr.
Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have been enlisted as consultants for the Promotion Fund of Vietnam’s Soccer Skills (PVF) academy, which opened its doorways in 2017.
The academy is full with manicured pitches and ultra-modern tools, together with the 360S simulator — a customized room the place gamers obtain balls from numerous angles, and should hit transferring, digital targets.
The power is a daring enterprise from Vuong, who began out promoting dried noodles in Ukraine earlier than constructing Vietnam’s greatest personal conglomerate and amassing an estimated $7.eight billion fortune.
The PVF academy’s technical director, former Japan coach Philippe Troussier — who additionally leads Vietnam’s U19s — mentioned the outcomes had been optimistic.
“We have began a robust course of to develop our soccer, to develop our gamers, to teach the boys, to export the gamers to worldwide degree,” Troussier instructed AFP.
“We’re on the best way,” he mentioned.
– ‘Underdogs’ –
The coaching faculty is presently house to just about 200 younger gamers aged 9 to 19 who’ve been recruited from throughout the nation and practice as much as 5 hours a day.
Whereas Giggs and Scholes add star energy and top-level expertise, Troussier, 64, has undoubted teaching prowess, after main Japan to the 2000 Asian Cup title and the 2002 World Cup’s final 16.
However regardless of the massive cash and massive names, the following World Cup should be a stretch for Vietnam.
“I do not assume they’ll qualify for the 2022 World Cup as they’ve to exchange not less than one of many Asian powerhouses corresponding to Iran, Japan or South Korea to get one of many few Asian locations accessible,” mentioned Steve Darby, the previous supervisor of Vietnam’s ladies’s crew.
The 2026 World Cup — when the variety of groups will bounce from 32 to 48 — could also be a extra lifelike goal. However even then they’d be seen as “underdogs”, mentioned Darby.
“Any Southeast Asian nation that qualifies will likely be seen as a weaker nation and in addition most likely be seeded fairly low. It takes time to get to the highest,” he mentioned.
Nonetheless, Vietnam’s nationwide crew have caught the attention with their progress, which has pushed them to an all-time excessive of 94 within the FIFA world rankings.
The youth groups are additionally exhibiting promise, bagging their first spot on the U20 World Cup in 2017 and a yr later, and reaching the ultimate of the Asian U23 Championship.
Followers throughout the nation spill onto the streets within the wake of Vietnam’s successes, and celebrations can be frenzied in the event that they handle to qualify for a World Cup.
Defender Tran Hoang Phuc, who comes from a poor household in Ho Chi Minh Metropolis, joined PVF in 2012 when he was 11, dreaming of emulating his idol, Arsenal defender David Luiz.
“I’ll strive my finest to play for the nationwide crew and hopefully to play on the world’s greatest match, the World Cup,” Phuc, who has been referred to as as much as Vietnam’s U19s, instructed AFP.