How many points do Vietnam need to make history in World Cup qualifiers?

Friday, 2019-11-22 01:31:18
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The perfect scenario would be that coach Park Hang-seo's side gain at least seven points in the remaining three matches to qualify for the last 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying round. (Photo: NDO/Tran Hai)
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NDO – If Vietnam maintain their top position in Group G in the remaining three matchdays at the second round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the Asian Zone, Vietnamese football will make history by qualifying for the last World Cup qualifying round for the first time ever. So how many more points do coach Park Hang-seo’s side need to make history for Vietnamese football?

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After a stalemate draw with arch-rivals Thailand in matchday six at Hanoi’s My Dinh Stadium on November 19, Vietnam still maintain the top position in Group G with 11 points after five matches. However, Malaysia come close in second place with nine points, thanks to a 2-0 home win against Indonesia on the same day. Having gained only one point in the match with hosts Vietnam, Thailand dropped to third with eight points. The UAE has six points, temporarily ranked fourth but having only played four matches. Indonesia after their fifth defeat in a row officially said goodbye to their World Cup hopes.

As such, except for the UAE with one match in hand, all four Southeast Asian teams in Group G played five matches. There are only three matches remaining for each of the four ASEAN teams, including Vietnam, in the second qualifying round for the 2022 FIFA World Cup’s Asian Zone. According to FIFA rules, the top eight teams and the four best runners-up in the second qualifying round will progress to the last round, as well as booking their berths in the 2023 Asian Cup finals.

With the current situation, to win the direct ticket to the final World Cup qualifying round, Quang Hai and his teammates will have to hold the top spot until Group G closes. If they target to go ahead as one among the four best runners-up, it will be difficult for the second place team in Group G to compete against the other runners-up from the remaining seven groups in terms of sub-indexes. Because the teams in Group G are judged to be not so different in level, so it is very difficult for them to have victories with big margins to get an advantage in goal difference. Additionally, in the past five matches the Vietnamese team won only one match by a two-goal margin, that was the 3-1 victory over Indonesia, with two stalemate draws to Thailand and two 1-0 wins over Malaysia and the UAE, respectively.

With Group G’s top position in hand, Park's players are taking advantage to decide for themselves on the ticket to go ahead. However, the distance between the top three teams in the group is only a maximum of three points. In the remaining three matches, except for hosting Indonesia at My Dinh, Vietnam will have to play two difficult away games, against Malaysia and UAE. The perfect scenario for Park’s side is that they win all three of their remaining matches to get a maximum of nine points, thereby qualifying for the third round as Group G winners with a total of 20 points. However, it will be difficult for this to happen, especially as Vietnam have to play two away matches.

The rankings in Group G after matchday six of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers second round for the Asian Zone.

On paper, compared to the rest of Group G, Vietnam’s three direct rivals for the top spot can only win a maximum of 18 points. Among them, Thailand currently have only eight points. If they win all three remaining matches (hosting Malaysia and Indonesia and visiting UAE), they would only have a total of 17 points. Malaysia (nine points, with three matches left) and UAE (six points, four matches left) must win all their remaining matches to reach the maximum of 18 points. Of which, only the UAE have a high chance of winning their maximum points as they have advantage in playing three remaining games at home, against Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, respectively. Meanwhile, Malaysia have to play two away games, against the UAE and Thailand, so it will not be easy for them to reach their goal. Therefore, it would be ideal if Vietnam can earn at least seven points in the remaining three matches, against Malaysia, Indonesia and the UAE, respectively, to overcome Thailand in total points in the case of the "War Elephants" winning all of their remaining three matches to accumulate 17 points.

Of course, this is just in theory but it is undeniable that the Vietnamese team have a huge advantage in winning the direct ticket to the next round as the group’s winners. Vietnam need to accumulate the maximum three points when they play guests to direct rivals Malaysia on March 31 of next year, before aiming to a win to visitors Indonesia on June 4, 2020, and striving to earn points against the UAE in their last game on the final matchday, June 9, 2020.

In the next matchday, on March 26, 2020, the Vietnam team will be off, while Thailand welcome Indonesia and Malaysia visit the UAE. Five days later, the "Golden Dragons" will visit Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur to play hosts Malaysia. A difficult trip is expected, especially when coach Park will not have the services of right-back Trong Hoang, who will be suspended for the match against Malaysia because of receiving two yellow cards over the previous two matches. This is a big loss for the Vietnamese team because Hoang has been an important factor on the right wing in the tactical scheme of Park for over two years. Hopefully with more than four months of preparation, the Korean strategist will have enough time to find alternatives, as well as help the team limit their weaknesses before returning to the World Cup qualifying campaign next year.

TRUNG HUNG