The Asian Football Federation (AFC) has just announced the final list of 23 players submitted by the 24 teams to compete in the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE early next year.
Accordingly, teams are allowed to replace their players from the final list of 23 up to six hours before their first match, but overall, they are almost the official squads that the national teams across the continent will bring to the 2019 Asian Cup.
According to the current list registered with the organisers, Vietnam have the youngest average age at only 23. Notably, in the squad of 23 Vietnamese players, there are 16 names from the U23 age group.
In particular, the youngest player is defender Doan Van Hau (19). The Thai Binh native is also the third youngest player in the 2019 Asian Cup, behind Mohammed Al-Huthaifi of Yemen and Iraqi striker Mohanad Ali (both born in 2000).
In the current "Golden Dragons" lineup, the oldest player, who has not yet reached the age of 30, is Hau’s teammate, defender Nguyen Trong Hoang (29), followed by goalkeeper Nguyen Tuan Manh (28) and rookie Ngan Van Dai (26).
Looking at the achievements of Vietnamese football in the whole 2018, it can be said that the decision by Park is also reasonable when taking a team consisting of mostly U23 players to the continent’s biggest tournament. They are young, but they absolutely do not lack experience in major tournaments in 2018.
The clear evidence is that a team that was not highly rated in the AFC U23 championship earlier this year played very steadily to finish runners-up at the tournament in China. Next, in August, the U23 players played an important role in the Vietnam Olympic team reaching the final four in the Asian Games 2018 for the first time in history.
The peak was the championship title at the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup in mid-December. Young players who competed together in both previous major tournaments still played the core in winning the second AFF Cup trophy.
The success of Vietnamese youth football in 2018 also received compliments from regional experts and media. The prestigious FOX Sports Asia said that it is impossible to underestimate the "Golden Dragons".
Owning talented young players who have been performing well in continental football, with the guidance of coach Park Hang-seo, the Vietnam team will be a team worth watching in the upcoming Asian Cup, it said.
However, it is impossible to expect too much of the team in the 2019 Asian Cup, as Park himself only set the best goal to play well in each match, especially as the team fall into the group of death with the participation of the two strong rivals, Iraq and three-time champions Iran, along with tournament debutants Yemen.
Undeniably, Vietnam have a golden generation of young, talented players, but the team are still at a potential stage. Young players will need more time to practice and accumulate experience against strong opponents in big tournaments like the Asian Cup, and most likely after one or two more tournaments, Vietnam’s promising stars like Quang Hai, Van Hau or Van Duc could really shine in the continental playground.
The calculation of Park in the 2019 Asian Cup is also considered to aim for the future goal of Vietnamese football. Deciding to not pick captain Van Quyet and veteran Anh Duc, the top striker contributing to the triumph of the team in AFF Cup 2018, it can be seen that Park does not place heavy goals in the 2019 Asian Cup, instead looking to create maximum conditions for the young players.
Next year, Vietnamese football will compete in several important and within reach tournaments than the Asian Cups, including the AFC U23 championship 2020 qualifying and especially the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines. Therefore, the upcoming Asian Cup will be a great opportunity for Park to train his players.
But there is still chance for coach Parks side to cause a surprise. According to the new format of the 2019 Asian Cup, in addition to the top two teams in each group, there will be four third-place teams with the best results going into the knockout stages. This is considered the most feasible goal for Vietnam team.
In order to win tickets to the knockout phase, Park’s players need at least four points, which means the team need at least a draw against Iraq or Iran, then a must win against Yemen, the team judged to be the weakest in Group D, to have any hope to get into the four third-place teams with the best results.
Currently, the Vietnam team are present in Qatar for training. They will have a friendly match against the Philippines on December 31, before moving to the UAE to officially compete at the 2019 Asian Cup. Park’s side will kick off their 2019 Asian Cup campaign with their opening match on January 8 against Iraq, then the next encounter four days later with the title favourites Iran. Finally, they will have the key match on January 16 with Yemen, the team ranked 35 places behind Vietnam on the FIFA rankings.