Bruno Garcia said Việt Nam find themselves in a difficult group for the upcoming Futsal World Cup but his team are 99 per cent ready to spring another surprise.
|High expectations: Vietnamese players celebrate after defeating Japan in the quarter-final match of the AFC Futsal Championship in February. Việt Nam won a place in the 2016 World Cup and are now ready for the tournament. — VNS Photo Quang Thắng
The tournament will be held in Colombia in September.
After the recent draw, Việt Nam have been placed in Group C along with world No 4 Italy, No 11 Paraguay and No 27 Guatemala.
“I think Group C and Group F are the most difficult ones in this World Cup. In fact, most coaches and people who attended the draw ceremony consider Group C the strongest,” Garcia told Việt Nam News in an email.
The Spanish coach says he has collected a lot of information about his opponents and has prepared plans to deliver the best results.
“We watched our opponents’ qualification matches at UEFA, CONCAFAC and COMENBOL and we have learnt their tactics by heart.”
According to Garcia, Italy are undoubtedly one of the favourites to win the cup. They were runners-up at the Chinese Taipei event in 2004 and won bronze medals in Brazil in 2008 and in Thailand in 2012.
He said Italian players have shown a lot of talent and experience in the strongest leagues of the world, such as the Spanish, Italian and Portuguese tournaments.
Paraguay are also a very competitive squad and Colombia 2016 will be their sixth World Cup. They went into the South American qualifying competition as one of the favourites and bagged the bronze medal. Paraguay rank behind Brazil and Argentina and display a similar style of playing to both these teams. Many of their players take part in the Italian and Spanish leagues.
Guatemala qualified in third position from the CONCACAF zone. Colombia 2016 will mark the country’s fourth appearance and third in succession at the World Cup. The team progressed to the knockout phase and finished at 10th place at Brazil 2008.
Meanwhile, world No. 41 Việt Nam are participating in their first ever World Cup after their surprise qualification from the Asian region.
“It is difficult but we have a great driving force behind our World Cup debut,” Garcia said.
“To qualify for the last-16 round we have to be one of the four teams with the best results in the group stage. It means we must collect at least four points and have a good goal difference.
“We will focus on the opening match with Guatemala on September 11, and they are also led by a Spanish coach. I know him very well because we often confronted each other in the Spanish league,” Garcia said.
The team’s second game is against Paraguay three days later, and they’ll play Italy on September 17.
It is the first time that Việt Nam will play Guatemala and Paraguay. In 2012, Việt Nam lost 0-9 to Italy in a friendly match.
But the difficulty lies not just in competing against strong rivals that have different playing styles. Việt Nam will play their first two matches in Cali and they then have to travel nearly 800km to Bucaramanga for the third game.
Garcia says the long journey will exhaust players and adversely affect their performance.
After the draw ceremony in Colombia last month, Garcia and the head of the Việt Nam Football Federation’s Futsal Department, Trần Anh Tú, surveyed the two cities where Việt Nam will play.
Cali is some 1,000m above sea level, while Bucaramanga is higher at 2,500m. The third challenge for the Vietnamese side after the two strong teams will be the high altitude and the lack of oxygen during these games.
The 42-year-old coach and the VFF have prepared a plan for the tournament.
“A team of 20 players will officially gather together on July 21 in HCM City. After three weeks of training, they will play a friendly match with an invited team before leaving for a training course in Spain,” Tú of the VFF said.
“In Spain, they will play three games, one of which is against the national team of the host nation. At the end of August they will fly to Argentina where they will practice and play with the national team of Argentina. They will then arrive in Colombia on September 6,” he said.
“We have been working for the past two years to build a skeletal national team and we have achieved this. We have tested more than 100 players during this time and we will retain almost the same squad that played at the AFC event,” Garcia said.
“I’m sure the Vietnamese people are proud of their team. We will try to better our performance step by step and I feel we will be able to continue giving more joy to our fans.
“It’s obvious we are the lowest-ranking team in our group, but the World Cup will be a really good chance for our players to get experience at the best tournament in the world. We are taking it as a great challenge and are only thinking about preparing a perfect match plan, game by game. We have surprised everyone in the AFC and we will try the same here,” he said.