How slim are Vietnam's chances in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers?

By Hieu Luong   March 26, 2024 | 06:50 am PT
Following a demoralizing 0-3 defeat to Indonesia Tuesday night, Vietnam's journey in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers now hangs by a thread.

No longer masters of their fate in Group F of the second qualifying round, the Vietnamese side, however, still cling to a sliver of hope.

Vietnam presently sit third in the group, trailing Indonesia by four points and the group leader Iraq by nine, after the latter's resounding 5-0 triumph over the Philippines. With goal differences of -3 for Vietnam, 0 for Indonesia, and +11 for Iraq, and goals scored tallying to five, six, and twelve, respectively, the situation looks precarious for Vietnam.

Cầu thủ Việt Nam thất vọng sau trận Việt Nam thua Indonesia 0-3. Ảnh: Giang Huy

Vietnamese players after a 0-3 defeat to Indonesia in the World Cup qualifier in My Dinh Stadium, Hanoi, March 26, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

World Cup regulations stipulate that the top two teams from each group will progress to the third qualifying round, with rankings determined by score, goal difference, and the number of goals. Iraq appear nearly certain of advancing to the next stage, leaving Vietnam to pin their hopes on a faltering Indonesian side in their final two matches set for June.

For Vietnam to keep their qualifying dreams alive, securing a minimum of four points is imperative, while Indonesia must suffer defeats in both of their games. Such an outcome would leave both teams level on points, but Vietnam would then need to overhaul their goal difference with at least four goals scored and none conceded.

In scenarios where Vietnam claim victory in all remaining games while Indonesia falters with two losses or one loss and one draw, Vietnam would advance on points. Should Indonesia draw their final two matches, Vietnam's task remains clear: achieve back-to-back wins. Even then, Vietnam would need to boost their goal difference to at least +1 to edge past Indonesia.

The upcoming matches see Vietnam facing the Philippines at home on June 6 and an away game against Iraq on March 26. Indonesia, on the other hand, enjoy the home-ground advantage for both of their remaining fixtures.

While Vietnam are favored over the Philippines, the prospect of securing a win or a draw against the formidable Iraq seems challenging. Moreover, Iraq's motivations remain high; despite assured advancement, they will not relent, as any points dropped could impact their FIFA ranking and subsequent seeding in the third round of qualifiers.

Vietnam made history when they advanced to the third qualifying round for the 2022 World Cup, and have aimed to repeat that achievement. But their path this time is apparently fraught with challenges.

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