It hasn’t exactly been a secret but the strides taken by Vietnam in youth development in the last few years have perhaps not been fully appreciated.
The country started the last decade crashing out of the AFF Suzuki Cup, Southeast Asia’s biennial tournament, at the semi-final stage. The domestic league was a byword for corruption and mismanagement.
It helped focus minds in a country that had long had potential and passion, and things began to change.
As 2020 dawned, a time that seems almost as long ago as 2010, it did so with the country as the number one in the region and moving close to becoming a continental power sooner rather than later.
The U-23 team reached the final of the 2018 Asia Championships, the senior side made the last eight of the Asian Cup a year later and is looking good to make the final round of qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Youth development has played a major part in this improvement. A new generation of young players have helped to drive the nation forward but the likes of Nguyen Quang Hai and Nguyen Cong Phuong did not emerge by accident.
Philippe Troussier is well-known in Africa after spells in charge of Nigeria, Ivory Coast and South Africa. The Frenchman also won the 2000 Asian Cup with Japan and led the team to the knockout stages of the 2002 World Cup.
Now he is in charge of Vietnam’s U-19 team as well as PVF, one of the leading youth academies in Asia that recruits players from the ages of 10-12.
The role of private academies such as PVF as well as the HAGL-Arsenal JMG facility, forward-thinking clubs such as Hanoi FC and the Vietnamese Football Federation (VFF) have made a crucial difference.
“The Vietnamese system has been in operation for over 10 years with private academies and clubs concerned with preparing future players from an early age,” Troussier told The World Game.
“Development is approaching international requirements and criteria in terms of organisation and technical programs.
"The fact that the 2026 World Cup will be in a format with 48 teams has greatly boosted Vietnam’s motivation and ambition to bring together and provide all means to football training and development structures.”
Just outside the capital Hanoi, PVF offers the necessary facilities and knowledge.
”These international and local executives present services at a very high level, worthy of the best training academies in the world and surely the top of the Asian level.”
The different stakeholders are working together said Troussier: “PVF has just signed a partnership with the VFF which offers magnificent infrastructure with football fields, changing rooms, accommodation and the various technical services constituted by specific departments such as the medical and physio departments, the scientist development department and nutrition, the video analysis department without forgetting the logistics, four and five star hotel accommodation, food and transportation etc.
"This partnership also between the PVF and the VFF provides, according to the needs of the federation and without conflict of interest with the functioning of PVF, the secondment of experts to the services of international missions. I myself am with a certain number of staff from PVF posted regularly to the VFF.”
The overall structure is still a little fractured on a national level but is coming together on a regional level.
There is no set curriculum nationally or AIS-style finishing school at a national level - academies and clubs provide regional support.
“The academies are organised according to the wishes of the board and the technical manager of each academy who works according to international criteria. The federation provides training for coaches through assembly periods, often in synergy with AFC requests.”
While Troussier would like to see more youth tournaments organised in the country, he believes the future is bright: “Vietnam is on the way.”