Coach Troussier: “A 2-4 Scoreline is Beneficial for Vietnam”

Despite the opening match loss to Japan, Coach Philippe Troussier believes that Vietnam played cohesively and determinedly and could aim for second place in Group D at the Asian Cup 2023.

“This match isn’t a knockout, so we have to see it in the context of the three group stage matches,” Coach Troussier said after the match at Al Thumama Stadium on the evening of January 14. “Today Vietnam scored two goals and didn’t receive any yellow cards. Therefore, I think a 2-4 loss is much more beneficial for Vietnam compared to a two-goal deficit loss like 0-2. In short, after this match, we are still aiming for being one of the best third-placed teams or, if possible, the second place.”

According to the French coach, given recent form and rankings, Japan seemed like a giant, so Vietnam was a bit overwhelmed and nervous at the start facing the pressure from the opponent. However, he believes that for the remainder of the match, his players improved, adhering very well to discipline, tactics, and strategy, while maintaining determination until the last moments. “All in all, I am very pleased with what the team showed today,” he emphasized.

Despite a significant disparity in skill level, Vietnam entered the match confidently. Even after Takumi Minamino scored in the 11th minute, Coach Troussier’s team did not lose composure. In fact, Vietnam effectively utilized two set-piece situations to create an upset. In the 16th minute, from Do Hung Dung’s left-corner kick, 19-year-old forward Nguyen Dinh Bac leaped for a backward header, directing the ball into the far high corner, leveling the score at 1-1. By the 33rd minute, from a Phan Tuan Tai free-kick, Pham Tuan Hai seized the opportunity from the Japanese goalkeeper’s error to put Vietnam ahead 2-1.

Though Japan later reversed the situation and led 3-2, Vietnam generally left a positive impression. The team had good ball possession, at times reaching 45%. In goal, newly naturalized goalkeeper Nguyen Filip made several impressive saves.

In the second half, Japan continued to dominate but did not create many dangerous situations. The Vietnamese defense, led by center-back Bui Hoang Viet Anh, repeatedly repelled pressure from the opposition. It was not until the final minutes, after Coach Hajime Moriyasu introduced his best attacking options, that Japan could extend their lead. In a situation where Viet Anh was down, the Vietnamese defense was disrupted, allowing “Samurai Blue” to coordinate in the middle, passing the ball to Ayase Ueda for the finish.

Coach Troussier explained that from the start of the match, he set a goal for the defenders to be proactive and disciplined with a low block. If Japan played well, Vietnam would switch to a mid-block, and if pressured, they would retreat to a low block. “I did not ask the players to press

too high. However, we didn’t want Japan to have much time or space to advance from their center-back position. Additionally, with forward pressure, our defense had to maintain discipline, continuously impact to place the opponent in offside positions. Naturally, when playing against a top team like Japan, apart from tactics, the players needed to be coordinated, strong, and assertive in individual actions.”

The former Japan national team coach noted that even though they scored, forwards Dinh Bac and Tuan Hai sacrificed a lot, helping the team maintain depth when in possession. “I emphasized to the players the need to apply good pressure, especially reverse pressure on Japan when they lost the ball,” he added. “For us, facing Japan, we were realistic. What Japan demonstrated today, in terms of technique, tactics, and physicality, clearly shows an imbalance. It’s like a boxing match in different weight classes,” he said.

Regarding the performance of Nguyen Filip, who just completed the naturalization process and played his first match for Vietnam, Coach Troussier said the player felt a bit pressured but overall performed well, with three to four crucial saves. According to the 68-year-old coach, apart from fulfilling the goalkeeper’s role, Nguyen Filip also supported his teammates in controlling the ball and showed the opponent that Vietnam was neither rushed nor pressured by Japan on home turf.

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