Making news

No rest for Vietnamese football stars

After an incredible 2018, Vietnam’s footballers are set for another busy year with three key international tournaments.

The first is the final round of the Asian Cup which will kick off on January 5 in the United Arab Emirates.

It will be the second time Vietnam have qualified for the continental tournament after 2007, when as co-hosts they were knocked out in the quarter-finals.

This year’s tournament features 24 teams, eight more compared to the last edition in Australian four years ago.

Vietnam are in Group D with Iran, Iraq and Yemen. The two top teams of each group and four best third-placed teams will qualify for the next round.

Vietnam, the champions of the ASEAN region, have been tipped to advance to the second round.

"We target a berth in the knock-out round. To do that, Vietnam need to be at least one of the four best third-placed teams. It is a suitable task for us because rivals in this group are really strong," said Vietnam Football Federation General Secretary Le Hoai Anh.

"Iran are on top of Asia. Iraq rank No 88 in the world, 12 steps higher than Vietnam. Yemen are the weakest among them but we must keep our eyes on them." he added.

Vietnam are currently training in Qatar. They will move to the UAE on January 6 before beginning their tournament against Iraq on January 8.

In March, Vietnam will compete in the qualification round for the 2020 Asian U23 Championship. As hosts of Group K, they will face Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei from March 22-26.

Last time out in January 2018, Vietnam came second in this tournament.

The 2020 U23 tournament finals also act as a qualifying round for the Tokyo Olympics same year, with the top three teams earning berths to compete in Japan.

"If we could maintain our strength at peak like we have done so far we even could join strong teams at the Tokyo Olympics," he said.

In addition, Vietnam begin the World Cup 2022 qualification process this year.

After the Asian Cup, players will return to their clubs for local leagues. They will gather again in August for training. Their six qualifying matches for the Qatar tournament will be in early September, mid-October and mid-November. Tournament details have not been confirmed.

At the end of the year, Vietnam will compete in the 30th Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines with a dream of winning the trophy for the first time.