Hanoi: Vietnam have raised eyebrows in recent years thanks to a number of milestones achievements. It all began two years ago when they defied all odds to book qualification to the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Colombia – the nation’s first FIFA tournament.
Next came another maiden qualification, this time for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017. And their U-23 side began 2018 with a bang, sweeping past the likes of Australia and Iraq en route to the final of the AFC U23 Championship China 2018.
Now the country's women team has the opportunity to create their own milestone moment. A top-five finish at next week’s AFC Women's Asian Cup Jordan 2018 will see the team win through their first ever FIFA Women's World Cup.
"I do hope our team will qualify," Mai Duc Chung, head coach of Vietnam, told FIFA.com. "We enter the qualifying competition motivated, and we hope we can go further."
However a third-place finish in the group means an opportunity to feature in the play-off against the third-place finishers of the other group. Despite the difficulties facing them, Vietnam can taking heart from their recent achievements as the coach pointed out.
"We have focused on youth development for years and the efforts have begun to bear fruit. We have performed well and gained good results (in the regional competitions) over recent years," he went on, citing their title-winning campaign in last year's Southeast Asian Games. "We will try our utmost to build on those achievements."
"My strategy (for the Women's Asian Cup) is to play a fluid passing game," he revealed. "We will try to keep our rivals at bay through solid defence. We will connect well and try to keep possession of ball. Our chances may lie in our swift counter-attack."
Vietnam will look to their promising star Nguyen Thi Tuyet Dung as they aim to spring a surprise heading to Jordan. The 24-year-old midfielder has to be the team's hottest prospect thanks to her goal-scoring form.
Her talents couldn't be better demonstrated than in a match against Malaysia at the AFF Women's Championship Vietnam 2015 when she completed a hat-trick in a 7-0 victory. Even more impressive was that she twice scored directly from corners, one from either foot.
"Our aims are straightforward - to progress to the last four," the midfielder told FIFA.com. "The chances are equal to each team and we can make it if we show our best."
The previous edition saw Vietnam pitted against Thailand in the fifth place play-off. However, there was to be heartbreak for Vietnam in front of their own fans as Thailand won 2-1 and qualified for Canada 2015. Four years on, though, Nguyen is confident that they can seek revenge should the two sides meet again in the all-important play-off.
“I scored the match-winning goal against Thailand in the Asian Games Korea Republic 2014 quarter-finals. So I believe we can absolutely make this happen again this time."
2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup groups
Group A: Jordan, China PR, Thailand, Philippines
Group B: Japan, Australia, Korea Republic, Vietnam
(The top five advance to France 2019)