Kuala Lumpur: Properly over two years because the begin of the Asian Qualifiers, interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all the way down to 12 groups competing for 4 direct tickets to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
The-AFC.com dives deep into the 12 nations who shall be collaborating within the upcoming AFC Asian Qualifiers – Highway to Qatar assessing and analysing the important thing males, highlighting the historical past, and giving a common perception into the groups battling out for a spot at Qatar 2022.
New on this stage of the Asian Qualifiers, Southeast Asia’s reigning regional champions Vietnam are set to make their bow, however will achieve this replete with among the most fun younger abilities from ASEAN.
Vietnam come into the Asian Qualifiers having by no means earlier than performed at this stage of the FIFA World Cup qualification course of, however with loads of expertise of enjoying on the highest degree of the continental sport and shouldn’t be taken flippantly by their Group B opponents.
Within the earlier spherical, coach Park Hold-seo’s males had been drawn in a Group G that featured three of their regional rivals from ASEAN in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, in addition to West Asia’s United Arab Emirates.
With Indonesia and Malaysia sharing a five-goal thriller on Matchday One it was a tamer affair in Vietnam’s opener as they shared a goalless draw away in Thailand, however the Golden Stars then went on a tear of three consecutive wins that included a powerful 1-0 defeat of UAE because of a objective from star striker Nguyen Tien Linh.
Vietnam’s ultimate Group G tie earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic struck noticed them share a second 0-0 stalemate with Thailand in entrance of 40,000 spectators in Hanoi that left the hosts on high of the standings after Matchday Six.
It took near a yr and a half earlier than Group G would resume with the remaining fixtures moved to a centralised hub within the UAE. Regardless of the change of panorama, Vietnam continued the place they left off with an emphatic 4-0 win over Indonesia earlier than they edged Malaysia within the penultimate tie courtesy of captain Que Ngoc Hai’s penalty.
A battling 3-2 defeat to their hosts did see Vietnam in the end end second to the UAE within the standings, however that they had carried out sufficient to safe a spot within the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Highway to Qatar as one of many 5 finest runners-up and safe an historic spot within the ultimate spherical of FIFA World Cup qualifying.
Vietnam shall be banking on the celebrities of their New Golden Technology, which attracts from the 2018 AFC U23 Championship runners-up aspect, to see them trigger a number of upsets in opposition to their extra skilled adversaries. Chief amongst them is the prodigiously gifted midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai, whereas striker Nguyen Tien Linh and captain Que Ngoc Hai lead a gifted supporting forged.
There was some preliminary scepticism when Korean supervisor Park Hold-seo was appointed head coach in September 2017 however the 63-year-old has blown away any and all doubts with success after success because the 2018 AFC U23 Championship and is now a bonafide celeb in his adopted dwelling.
Showing on the first two AFC Asian Cups in 1956 and 1960 as South Vietnam, it was underneath that identify the group first took half in FIFA World Cup qualification for the 1974 version, however after a win over Thailand defeats to Japan and Hong Kong noticed the aspect exit within the first spherical.
The Southeast Asians wouldn’t return to FIFA World Cup qualifying till April 1993 and the primary section of fixtures for USA ’94. Whereas a historic second, the performances on the sector couldn’t match with the Vietnamese ending backside of Group C.
It was an analogous story in subsequent makes an attempt with Vietnam failing to progress to the ultimate spherical of qualifying for the next six FIFA World Cups. There was nonetheless notable success in different competitions throughout that interval, nevertheless.
A primary look on the AFC Asian Cup since 1960 resulted in a quarter-final end on the 2007 version which was adopted a yr later by a maiden AFF Championship in 2008. A decade later Vietnam loved arguably their finest ever yr in soccer.
Their runners-up end on the 2018 AFC U23 Championship captured the creativeness of the nation and it was adopted up by an equally spectacular fourth place end on the 2018 Asian Video games. The yr signed off in the very best method with a second AFF Championship, sealed in entrance of their dwelling followers at My Dinh Nationwide Stadium in Hanoi.
In 2019, Park’s expenses repeated their 2007 heroics on the AFC Asian Cup within the UAE, reaching the ultimate eight and solely eradicated by heavweights Japan by the slimmest of margins in a 1-0 defeat.
Reaching the ultimate stage of the qualification course of for the FIFA World Cup is one other milestone for the New Golden Technology and their passionate fanbase shall be hoping there’s but extra to return from their group.
Nguyen Quang Hai
Nonetheless solely 24, Nguyen Quang Hai is the most important identify within the group and, when on track, one of the crucial thrilling attacking midfielders in Asia. Quang Hai thrust himself into the continent’s consciousness as he famously led Vietnam to the AFC U23 Championship ultimate in 2018 and has continued to shine at subsequent tournaments together with the 2018 AFF Championship and 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Nguyen Tien Linh
Vietnam’s high scorer within the earlier spherical of qualifying with 5 targets, 23-year-old Tien Linh is beginning to solidify his place as his nation’s primary targetman. The six foot tall ahead was in notably prolific kind when the Qualifiers returned in June 2021, discovering the web in all 4 of Vietnam’s remaining Group G fixtures. That kind shall be sorely wanted within the fixtures to return.
Que Ngoc Hai
The captain and rock on the coronary heart of Vietnam’s defence, Que Ngoc Hai will see no scarcity of motion when the centre-back prepares to tackle among the finest attackers Asia has to supply. The 28-year-old skippered Vietnam to the quarter-finals of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and was concerned within the latest 2021 AFC Champions League Group Stage with membership aspect Viettel FC.
Having certified for the ultimate spherical of the Asian Qualifiers for the primary time of their historical past, and changing into simply the second Southeast Asian nation after Thailand to take action, Vietnam are actually in uncharted territory.
Not solely have they by no means confronted any opponent at this stage of FIFA World Cup qualifying earlier than, except for Japan they haven’t performed any of their Group B opponents in a aggressive tie within the final decade.
The Golden Stars final confronted Saudi Arabia in FIFA World Qualifying in 2001, though they will not be in a rush to recall these two heavy defeats, and it ought to be show to be an intriguing encounter in opposition to certainly one of Asia’s conventional heavyweights.
Matchday Two will show much more of a enterprise into the unknown as Vietnam have by no means confronted Australia earlier than at senior males’s degree. The 2015 AFC Asian Cup winners and perennial FIFA World Cup qualifiers are positive to be a troublesome problem though Park’s males will a minimum of have dwelling benefit with the primary assembly happening at My Dinh Nationwide Stadium.
Ballot ends at 17:00 (UTC+8) on August 31.
Photographs: AFP, AFC