HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam is in an easy Group B at the AFF Futsal Championship, hoping to secure a slot at the continental tournament after a recent draw in Bangkok, Thailand.
The two-time World Cup participants are to play Australia, Myanmar and East Timor. Group A gathers Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Brunei and the hosts.
Australia is the most powerful team Group B as they are No 33 in the world while Việt Nam are No 38.
Australia has also competed in the World Cup twice but were eliminated from the group round. The team could not find a berth in the 2021 World Cup where Việt Nam were in the quarter-finals. They have not taken part in the regional competition from 2016 to 2021.
Myanmar has made remarkable progress in futsal as they were in three semi-finals of the last four AFF Championships. Meanwhile, East Timor are too weak to think about the top two teams in the group.
Việt Nam’s best results here were two silvers in 2009 and 2012. They finished fourth in the Asian championship in 2016 and qualified for the World Cup for the first time in history. Five years later, they won a two-leg playoff match against Jordan to play their second World Cup in 2021.
The AFF Championship will be held at the Huamark Indoor Stadium in Bangkok from April 3-12. The four best teams from the group round will advance to the semi-finals.
The tournament will also be used as the ASEAN qualifiers with the top three teams earning tickets to the AFC Futsal Asian Cup in Kuwait from September 25 to October 10.
In preparation for the event, coach Phạm Minh Giang called up a 22-strong squad combined with experienced and young players.
Most of players competed at the Lithuania World Cup such as Nhan Gia Hưng, Châu Đoàn Phát and Golden Ball winner Hồ Văn Ý. Trần Thái Huy is back in action after a long absence because of injury. Young star Nguyễn Văn Hiếu and newcomer Nguyễn Huỳnh Thanh Huy are also given places.
“This squad is a mix of senior players and young but strong players. I want my senior ones to guide their juniors through competitions. So that futsal in Việt Nam will be always ready for world-class events,” said Giang.
They will practise at the Thái Sơn Nam Sport Centre in HCM City until the last week of March before having a training course and competition in Thailand prior to the championship.
The players will also represent Việt Nam in the 31st Southeast Asian Games on home turf in May.
“I am honoured and happy to have my name on the list. It will be my first time competing in the SEA Games,” said goalkeeper Ý, who is one of the top 10 shot-stoppers in the world.
“I have had a successful year with my club and the national team. It is definite that I will contribute my best at the regional competitions.”
Awards for deserved players
The national futsal team on Tuesday were presented the 2021 Fair Play Award, an annual award by Pháp Luật Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh Newspaper and Việt Nam Football Federation set up in 2012.
The team passed other nominees following their bravery and determination that they showed to win their World Cup berth and their spirit before, during and after competing in Lithuania.
The team made a fairy-tale journey that inspired supporters at home and across the world.
Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính presented certificates of merit to the whole team and three individuals, coach Giang, goalie Ý and captain Trần Văn Vũ, for their World Cup achievement, on February 16.
Speaking at the ceremony, coach Giang thanked leaders and sports officials for their care as well as fans for their encouragement that helped his team overcome challenges to grab success.
Giang, the only Asian coach nominated for the world best club coach of 2021, said his team left World Cup fame behind to focus on the SEA Games this summer.
“Our target now is to beat (defending champions) Thailand in the coming Games,” he said. — VNS