Vietnam will have five games during the Asian section of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification from now to year-end, and the Golden Stars are expected to play all of them in high spirits given their success at a recent international tourney.
Playing Asia’s qualifiers for Qatar 2022 is the much-anticipated activity of the national team in the second half of this year, Le Hoai Anh, general secretary of the Vietnam Football Federation, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Monday.
Vietnam's football supporters had strongly believed that their beloved team could make a miracle to play at Qatar 2022 when FIFA was considering making it a 48-team event.
FIFA delayed that plan to the 2026 edition, but it did not mean Vietnamese football fans would stop cherishing their World Cup dream.
Fans now expect to see the Golden Stars fly high at Asia’s qualifiers, after the team finished second at the King’s Cup 2019 in Thailand.
The second-place title, which came after a penalty shootout loss to Curacao on Saturday, is still considered a success for Vietnam, as it helped the country go up one spot in the latest FIFA World Rankings.
Vietnam, now standing at 15th in Asia and 97th in the world, will play the Asian qualifiers for Qatar 2022 as one of the continent’s top 16 teams, which is a big advantage for the team, as far as the qualification structure is concerned.
The Asian section of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification consists of four rounds.
Twelve teams, which rank from 35th to 46th in Asia, are competing in the first round, played on a home-and-away two-legged format, while Vietnam already qualified for the second round.
During the second round, six first round winners and 34 teams, ranking 1st to 34th, are divided into eight groups of five teams to play home-and-away round-robin matches.
Prior to the group draw, the 40 teams will be divided into five pots based on their FIFA rankings, with the first pot consisting of Asia’s top eight teams, and those ranking 9th to 16th fall into the second pot, and so on.
Vietnam have a big advantage as they will be in the second pot. No matter what group they are in, Vietnam will have to face only one out of the eight top-seeded opponents, while the other three teams in their group all have lower FIFA rankings than theirs.
The eight group winners and the four best group runners-up of the second round will advance to the third round of FIFA World Cup qualification as well as qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup finals.
Local football experts and supporters believe that Vietnam will make it through the second round as one of the best four runners-up.
Progressing into the third round of Asia’s qualifiers means Vietnam will be among the last 12 Asian teams to vie for the 4.5 slots, consisting of four direct slots and one inter-confederation play-off ticket, available to play at the world’s biggest football competition.
It will mark a new milestone for Vietnam’s football.
The draw for the second-round Asian qualifiers of the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be conducted in Qatar on July 17.