The feat wasn’t achieved by the Thai national team, so “why bother?” is precisely the attitude which has to be avoided at all costs.
The AFC U19 Championship is organised every two years and acts as a qualifying event for the Fifa U20 World Cup finals.
The top four teams from this year’s event to reach the 2017 Fifa U20 World Cup are Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. They will join hosts South Korea, increasing the number Asian squads to five at the finals.
Thailand have never appeared at any of the Fifa World Cups, save for futsal and women’s soccer. Myanmar is the only other Southeast Asian country to feature at the Fifa U20 World Cup, reaching the finals of the 2015 event.
The post-match comments by Vietnam youth team coach Hoang Anh Tuan and their hero Tran Thanh, whose 72nd-minute free-kick turned his side into history-makers, carried loud and clear messages for everyone which shouldn’t be ignored by anyone, especially the Thais.
“Today’s result is a reward for the long preparation, not just the match you see today. Our victory came from good tactics, spirit and concentration,” said Tuan.
“To build mentality and focus, you need time. That is our strong point and you saw it today with our mentality and fighting spirit.
“We are really proud of Vietnam football. I want to say again that we are from the Southeast Asian region. We want to change the map of continental football.”
Tran paid tribute to his coach for instilling a sense of belief in the team and executing a perfect game plan.
“Our coach laid out a very good strategy for this game and every one of us implemented it, which helped us achieve our aim,” he said.
“We may not be that strong on paper but we have proved to the world that Vietnam football cannot be taken lightly. We are determined to do well and step by step we have succeeded in achieving our first target.”
These words are clear warnings for everyone concerned that no-one should expect any let-up in the Vietnamese charge towards securing a place among Asia’s best.
The Vietnam coach is right in suggesting that formidable teams can’t be built overnight.
The young match-winner Tran cast his vote in favour of his coach’s claim, saying it has to be done step by step.
Vietnam, for past many years, have been seen by their Asian rivals as the team to avoid which in itself is a wrong attitude.
Thailand beat them twice in the second stage of the Asian qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup but have themselves suffered four straight losses as many game in the final phase.
When it comes to football skills, Thailand, in no way, lags behind any other nation in the Asean region.
They are rather a mile ahead all of them.
They just need to find someone who can instil highly needed traits such as self-belief, the will to succeed and the ability to stay focused among the youth. They need someone who can ensure a regular supply of fearless footballers for future national squads.
The time hasn’t come yet to push the panic button but the national governing body can reach the point where it becomes unavoidable if due importance is not attached to the need for devising a long-term strategy for youth development.
No-one wishes for a repeat of the 1998 Asean Football Championship in which Thailand and Indonesia were penalised US$40,000 (B1.4 million) each for “violating the spirit of the game” (read trying to throw away a match).
They were both attempting to avoid playing Vietnam in the semi-finals.
The infamous match was finally settled in the dying moments of the extra-time when an Indonesia defender planted the ball into his own net to give Thailand a 3-2 win.
Both teams eventually failed to make the final, Thailand losing to Vietnam and Indonesia to Singapore.
To avoid such incidents in the future, the Football Association of Thailand, under its president Somyot Poompunmuang, should start building the mentality of its talented youth now.
Then they would only need to have faith, move step by step and the results of their national teams will improve automatically.
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