The Vietnamese football team have fulfilled their mission to qualify for the third round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers for the first time ever, but they are facing a tough journey ahead, having been placed alongside Asia’s powerhouses in the final qualifying round.

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The Vietnamese team have affirmed their position in the region as well as the continental playground in recent years, but they are still lagging behind strong rivals in the final round of the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. (Photo: VFF)

The draw for the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup was held earlier this month, witnessing the Vietnamese side being joined by Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, China and Oman in Group B. Group A promises to be much tougher with the presence of the continent’s second-ranked Iran, the Republic of Korea (ROK), the UAE, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

As the lowest ranked team in the draw based on the FIFA World Ranking, it is almost impossible for Vietnam to compete for one of the top two places in the Group for the automatic slots in the World Cup finals, or even the third-placed finish for the play-offs.

The ASEAN champions lost 3-2 to the UAE in their last match of the second qualifying round. Although coach Park Hang-seo’s side are still maintaining their position as the No. 1 team in Southeast Asia, the recent loss to the UAE revealed that Vietnam are still quite far behind the top teams of the continent.

Not to mention the Asian powerhouses, even against the UAE, the team were placed in Pot 3 for the abovementioned draw, behind Japan, Iran, the ROK and Australia. Thus the Vietnamese team still have to make a lot of efforts to gradually approach their level.

That said, it is not feasible to set a too ambitious goal for Park's side to compete for the top two positions in the final qualifying round, or at least the 3rd place finish for a ticket to intercontinental play-off round.

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The draw results for the final round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. (Photo: AFC)

However, this is still a very good opportunity for the Golden Star Warriors to compete against the strongest teams in Asia and gain valuable experiences for their development. It also provides a premise to achieve further goals in the long-term plan of Vietnamese football.

Park also admitted a reality that rivals in the last qualifying round are all considered stronger than his side, and it is a valuable opportunity for Vietnam to play against them. “This will be a good chance for Vietnam to learn more from other teams and improve their profession,” he said after the draw.

“This is the first time Vietnam have appeared in the final round of the World Cup Qualifiers. We will prepare our best for each match and are ready to conquer every challenge and competition at all levels,” Park told reporters.

Regardless of the final result in the upcoming qualifying round, with at least 10 qualifying matches to be played by the Vietnamese team from the beginning of September this year to March 2022, this is a "golden" opportunity for the players to practice and accumulate experience to become more mature in the future.

 

Only by that, the players will have more experience, knowing exactly where they are on the continental football map and what they need to improve. Vietnamese players need to hone their skills in quality matches again such strong teams to grow up, as the country now has a collective of talented young players; most of them, such as Quang Hai, Tien Linh, Hoang Duc, Van Hau, Van Toan, Viet Anh, Hai Long and Thanh Binh, will reach their maturity in the next few years and continue to play a pivotal role in the national team.

And then, the 2026 FIFA World Cup maybe the right time for them, when the tournament increases the number of participating teams from 32 to 48, with 8.5 slots for Asian representatives, instead of the current 4.5.

Vietnam have reached the final qualifying round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, among the 12 strongest teams of the continent. If after four years, the Vietnamese team are still in this group, then the chances for them to reach the World Cup finals will be much greater.

Therefore, looking back the defeat against the UAE, Vietnam can draw many things. Park and the coaching staff must have had their own views and assessments to limit the team’s vulnerabilities revealed in the second qualifying round.

Currently, the whole team have finished their concentrated medical isolation period after returning from the successful second qualifying round campaign in the UAE. The players will soon return to practice to catch up with the V.League spin. There is not much time left for the final qualifying round. With less than three months to go, the squad cannot expect an immediate change, especially as key midfielders Hung Dung or Tuan Anh will not soon return from injuries.

Should coach Park be able to give more opportunities for some new face like Minh Vuong, after the super-sub showing his ability in the late match against the UAE? If doing so, Vietnam can renew themselves in the final qualifying round, especially when the top goal is trying to get the best results possible against Asian giants. More than anyone, coach Park is the one who understands the strengths and weaknesses of the team best. The experience when facing higher-level opponents will be the luggage for the players to mature.

In the long term, in order to realise the World Cup dream, the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF), the coaching staff and the Vietnamese clubs need a long-term strategy to raise the quality of the national football, in the immediate future, is to improve the quality of the domestic top tournaments, as well as attracting investment in football, improving the quality of youth training, and training experts, coaches and strategic planners for the development of Vietnamese football.

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The players themselves will also need to make greater efforts to improve their physical fitness, as well as skills and tactics, and should be given more opportunities to play abroad to gain experience.

Vietnam also needs to have an orientation and strategic vision, along with specific solutions and a methodical approach to how to limit the weaknesses and promote the best Vietnamese players’ qualities in terms of competitive spirit, technique and expertise.

Hopefully, with the past development platforms and the right and solid steps in the future, the World Cup dream of millions of Vietnamese football lovers will soon come true.

Source: Nhan Dan

Vietnam may shock World Cup 2022’s final qualifiers: Australian newspapers

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