“Any Southeast Asian nation that qualifies will be seen as a weaker nation and also probably be seeded quite low. It takes time to get to the top,” he said.
Still, Vietnam’s national team has caught the eye with their progress, which has pushed them to an all-time high of 94 in the FIFA world rankings.
The youth teams are also showing promise, bagging their first spot at the U20 World Cup in 2017 and a year later, and reaching the final of the Asian U23 Championship.
Fans across the country spill onto the streets in the wake of Vietnam’s successes, and celebrations would be frenzied if they manage to qualify for a World Cup.
Defender Tran Hoang Phuc, who comes from a poor family in Ho Chi Minh City, joined PVF in 2012 when he was 11, dreaming of emulating his idol, Arsenal defender David Luiz.
“I will try my best to play for the national team and hopefully to play at the world’s biggest tournament, the World Cup,” Phuc, who has been called up to Vietnam’s U19s.