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World Cup scouting report: How Vietnam could beat the USWNT

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Huynh Nhu is the all-time leading scorer and captain for Vietnam. (STR/Vietnam News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)

As the U.S. women’s national team prepares for the 2023 World Cup, Just Women’s Sports is taking a look at its opponents — including its three group-stage adversaries and its likely matchups in the knockout rounds.

Next up: Vietnam.

Manager: Mai Duc Chung

Mai Duc Chung is a former player who has had several stints as the manager of the Vietnam women’s team, the first back in 1997, when he served as the squad’s first coach. He started his current stint in 2016, coaching the team to four Southeast Asian Games gold medals since then. He also led the team to a quarterfinal finish at the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, which helped Vietnam clinch its spot in the 2023 World Cup.

Key player: Huynh Nhu

Huynh Nhu is one of Vietnam’s most veteran players, with 67 goals through 103 international appearances. She is the team’s all-time leading scorer and captain. She also is the first Vietnamese women’s footballer to play professionally in Europe, signing with Portuguese club Vilaverdense in 2022.

So far in 2023, she has five goals through eight appearances. Last year was one of her best campaigns to date, with 11 goals through 18 appearances. The 21-year-old Nguyen Thi Thanh Nha, who scored against Germany and was named as FIFA’s one to watch this summer, also is worth watching.

World Cup history

This will be Vietnam’s first Women’s World Cup appearance. The team is currently ranked 32nd in the world by FIFA.

Group stage schedule

Vietnam will play in Group E alongside the USWNT, Portugal and the Netherlands. Take a look at the schedule below, and check out the full World Cup schedule.

  • Friday, July 21 – 9 p.m. (Fox)
    • Vietnam vs. USWNT
  •  Thursday, July 27 – 3:30 a.m. (FS1)
    • Vietnam vs. Portugal
  •  Tuesday, Aug. 1 – 3 a.m. (FS1)
    • Vietnam vs. Netherlands

Keys to beat the USWNT

Vietnam could be a sneakily tricky team for the USWNT, as evidenced by the squad’s narrow 2-1 loss to Germany in June. Vietnam followed that up with a 2-0 loss to New Zealand, which snapped the Football Ferns’ 10-match winless streak. The team next faces Spain on July 13 before beginning its World Cup journey against the USWNT.

Vietnam’s attacking power was on full display against Germany. And in a 2-0 win over Myanmar in the Southeast Asian Games final, the Vietnamese players consistently pulled apart the defense. While the USWNT’s defense is more formidable, it is also young. Even a seemingly small mistake could put Vietnam in a position to get on the scoresheet.

The fact that Vietnam is unknown to the USWNT — with the two teams never having played before — could work in the underdog’s favor. Plus, Vietnam has played nine matches together before the World Cup begins.

In contrast, the USWNT has played eight matches in 2023. But with roster shake-ups due to injury, the USWNT from January looks decidedly different than the one playing in July. Cohesiveness for the U.S. is not a new concern, but Vietnam still could take advantage.