|By 2026, Vietnam's national football team will include young aces currently playing with the U15 and U18 teams. (Photo: thethao247.vn)
“The World Cup 2026 will be held in the US, Canada and Mexico," said Tuan. "At this event, FIFA approved an expansion to 48 teams, with a format of 16 groups of three nations. This means Asia will have seven or eight slots to compete for. This helps Vietnam and other countries in Southeast Asia have a great chance to play in the world’s biggest football tournament."
“Although it will be very difficult, we will make every effort," Tuan said. "Besides national senior teams, we will invest in U15 and U18 footballers to help us earn a place in the tournament."
Tuan said this is a positive time for Vietnamese football as it has received great interest from fans, businesses and even State leaders.
“The VFF has built plans and relationships to bring necessary conditions for senior and young teams,” said Tuan.
Vietnam ranked 15th in Asia in the FIFA rankings in June. The team will have to improve to qualify from a crowded Asian field in one of seven or eight slots.
The national football teams have achieved great advances in recent times including being the runners-up of the AFC U23 Championship in 2018, finishing fourth in the Asian Games in 2019, winning the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2018 and being one of the eight best teams in the Asian Cup earlier this year.
If Vietnam are to gain a slot in the World Cup, the players from its "golden generation" will be an experienced and formidable squad by the time of the tournament. Nguyen Cong Phuong, midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai, defender Doan Van Hau and midfielder Tran Dinh Trong will likely lead the way, and will be joined by younger stars currently in the youth teams.
According to experts, the U18 team under the guidance of coach Hoang Anh Tuan have many outstanding players such as Bui Tien Sinh (Viettel), Tran Manh Quuynh (Song Lam Nghe An-SLNA), Nguyen Thanh Khoi (Hoang Anh Gia Lai), Pham Xuan Tao (Da Nang) and Kha Tan Tai (Dong Thap). The U15 class also has the potential to develop strong players through Ngo Van Bac (SLNA) and Nguyen Thai Quoc Cuong (Hoang Anh Gia Lai).
The U15 and U18 teams are training in Japan to sharpen their skills and prepare for the AFF U15 Championship from July 27 to August 9 in Thailand and the AFF U18 Championship in Vietnam from August 5 to 18.
SLNA, which won the National U15 Football Championship, contributed nine players to the U15 national team.
According to Tuan, SLNA’s young players have proved very skilful and some of them should develop enough to join the team in its quest to qualify for the World Cup.