A fearless Vietnam team is set to make history in its Women’s World Cup debut against the top-ranked U.S. women’s national team.
Baptism of fire: One of the first teams to qualify, the No. 32-ranked Vietnam team is taking on the defending champions at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday at 1 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET on Friday).
Vietnam secured their spot in the tournament on Feb. 6, 2022, after winning the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup Playoff.
Leading the charge for Vietnam is 72-year-old head coach Mai Duc Chung, a veteran mentor with extensive experience coaching the Vietnam National Teams at various levels.
Coach Chung considers the highly favored USWNT a challenge that he has compared to “a big mountain.” However,the coach dismissed the idea of a “mismatch,” noting that since Vietnam is in the tournament to learn, they are in the position to learn from the best.
“It’s historic, we never dared to think of playing against the US,” Chung was quoted as saying. “We are here to learn from the world.”
Formidable opponent: While it will be the first time the USWNT will face Vietnam in the tournament opener, the team has opened the World Cup against other Asian teams in the past, including Korea DPR in both 2007 (2-2 draw) and 2011 (2-0 USA win), as well as Thailand (13-0 USA win) in 2019.
The USWNT has won all of their last 15 consecutive matches against AFC teams at the FIFA Women’s World Cup and its last 22 matches against AFC opponents overall.
No fear: Chung selected a roster comprised mainly of players from the Vietnamese pro league, with forward Huynh Nhu being the lone exception.
Nhu, the team’s all-time leading scorer with 71 international goals, brings valuable experience after becoming the first Vietnamese woman to sign with a European club, Länk Vilaverdense in Portugal.
“Fear?” the 31-year-old asked during a press briefing. “We believe. We prepared. There is nothing to fear or to be afraid of. We had friendlies against leading nations. We don’t fear.”
Tough road ahead: The 2023 Women’s World Cup marks a significant milestone, with the tournament expanding to 32 countries, an increase from 24 in previous editions. The other first-timers in the new format are Haiti, Morocco, the Republic of Ireland, Panama, the Philippines, Portugal and Zambia.
After their match against Team USA, the Vietnamese team will continue its historic World Cup participation at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton/Kirikiriroa against world No. 21 Portugal on July 27 at 7:30 p.m. local/3:30 a.m. ET.
The team will wrap up Group E on August 1 with a match against the Netherlands at Dunedin Stadium in Dunedin/Otepoti at 7 p.m. local/3 a.m. ET.