The U23 team celebrate Nguyen Quang Hai's stunning goal in the 2018 AFC U23 Championship final. They'll be hoping to go one better next year and win the tournament. Photo nld.com.vn

At the draw held by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Friday, coach Park Hang-seo's men were placed in Group I to battle it out for a spot in the tournament, in Uzbekistan, in June next year.

They will also take on Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei.

Matches are slated to be held this October in centralised venues where each team will play each other once. Việt Nam's matches will be hosted in Taipei.

The 11 group winners and four best runners-up will qualify for the tournament.

The Vietnamese side will be seen as favourites to qualify, having been seeded in pot 1 for the draw and having performed considerably better than their opponents in recent years.

Việt Nam struggled in the last edition of the tournament in early 2020 in Thailand, finishing bottom of their group with two draws and a defeat to North Korea.

The 2018 tournament, however, was perhaps Vietnamese football's finest moment.

The unfancied Vietnamese made it all the way to the final, knocking out Asian football heavyweights like Australia, Iraq and Qatar along the way.

 

They narrowly lost the final 2-1 to Uzbekistan after extra time in snowy Changzhou City, China.

The silver medal was and remains Việt Nam's greatest achievement in an AFC tournament and helped kick-start all the remarkable success the senior and junior national teams have enjoyed in the last three years.

With only players born on or after January 1, 1999, eligible to play in the qualification campaign and finals, only six members of the 2020 squad that played in Thailand will be up for selection.

In related news, senior and U23 team head coach Park Hang-seo returned to his native South Korea on Friday evening following the death of his father-in-law.

V.League restart postponed

Hopes for restarting the domestic football season took another blow on Thursday, as the Việt Nam Professional Football (VPF) Company announced it had scrapped plans to resume play this month.

The VPF had hoped to hold the final seven fixtures of the first half of the season on July 31 and wrap up the second half in August, with all matches in the second half taking place in the north.

However, due to the continued uptick in COVID-19 cases, particularly the large outbreak in HCM City, the VPF told clubs the planned restart was no longer under consideration.

No alternative date for the restart has been announced, while the national team are scheduled to gather in a training camp in August to prepare for World Cup qualifying fixtures starting in September.

Play was halted in early May at the beginning of the fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, with Hoàng Anh Gia Lai on top of the table. — VNS