Looking back on the past year, coach Park Hang-seo’s side have enjoyed another successful year. Impressed with the performances of Vietnamese football in the international arena, once again, the highest governing body in world football gave Park's side a flattering compliment.
Accordingly, in the list of 12 national teams that shocked the world football in 2019 announced by FIFA, the Vietnamese team earned their slot. FIFA was impressed with the convincing performance of the team at the 2019 Asian Cup earlier this year, as well as the impressive journey of the “Golden Stars” in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers so far.
Choosing the moment captain Que Ngoc Hai celebrated his superb goal to post on its official homepage, FIFA highlighted two impressive achievements that Vietnamese football claimed in 2019, namely “made the AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals for the first time, won three consecutive FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the first time." These are two prominent achievements that got Park's boys a place on the list of the most surprising teams in 2019, selected by the largest and most recognised football organisation on the planet.
FIFA honours Vietnam senior team for their impressive achievements in 2019.
In fact, this is the second time Vietnam have earned their place in the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup. In 2007, veteran striker Le Cong Vinh and his teammates caused a surprise as they reached the last-eight in the continent's most prestigious tournament at their first time debuting at the finals. That occasion however, the Vietnamese team took part in the 2007 Asian Cup finals as one of the four co-hosting Southeast Asian nations.
As for the 2019 Asian Cup, which took place earlier this year in the UAE, the Vietnamese team did not need a wild card entry, instead earning their spot in the 2019 Asian Cup finals after excelling in the two qualifying rounds. Despite being in a tough group with the presence of Iraq, Iran and Yemen in the finals, Vietnam as the ASEAN defending champions still clinched a ticket to the knockout stages as one of the best third-place teams. In the round of 16, Park’s side drew 1-1 with Jordan after 120 minutes and then went on to beat their opponents 4-2 in a tense penalty shootout to reach the quarterfinals. There Vietnam met the mighty Japan and against an opponents with superior pedigree, the “Golden Stars” still fought bravely and only narrowly lost 1-0 by a goal from the spot kick.
In 2019, Vietnam also competed in another important campaign in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and they have continued to put out impressive performances. After opening the qualifying round with a draw against regional arch rivals Thailand, Vietnam went on to win three consecutive matches against Indonesia, Malaysia and UAE. For the first time in their history, Vietnamese football recorded this notable achievement. After five matches played, Vietnam now lead their group in the Asian section of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers with an unbeaten record (three wins, two draws) and have a great opportunity to reach the final qualifying round for the first time in their history.
Closing out 2019 with great success, Vietnamese football had an additional historical achievement with the first Southeast Asian Games gold medal in men’s soccer by the U22 team. The Vietnamese senior team also finished 2019 ranked 94th place in the FIFA World Rankings, their highest over the past two decades, along with the 14th position in Asia and the top spot in Southeast Asia.
The outstanding achievements in 2019 by the Vietnamese team are fully merited to receive the plaudits from FIFA. It is also a recognition of the relentless efforts from coach Park Hang-seo's players during the past year.
In 2020, Park’s side will compete in many important tournaments, starting with the AFC U23 Championship in Thailand early next year, where the reigning runners-up Vietnam U23s are seeking their first ticket in their history to attend the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, followed by the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and the campaign to defend their throne by the senior team at the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup at the end of the year.
Hopefully, the successes in 2019 which have been honoured by FIFA will be more motivation to spur on Vietnamese football to be even more successful in the coming year.