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Final qualifying round foundation for 2026 World Cup dream: expert

By Duc Dong   July 5, 2021 | 07:27 pm PT
Final qualifying round foundation for 2026 World Cup dream: expert
Vietnam (L) face Japan at Asian Cup 2019. They will meet again in the final round of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.
Facing Asia’s top teams in the World Cup final qualifying round could be Vietnam’s stepping stone to realize their 2026 World Cup dream, said football expert Doan Minh Xuong.

Xuong said Vietnamese football is having its most talented generation so far.

"I'm hoping this qualifying round would be a stepping stone for us to compete for a slot at the 2026 World Cup. Current players are still capable of playing at their top form for a few years more," he said.

For Vietnam’s chance in the final round of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, where they are in group B with Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, China and Oman, he said Vietnam should be realistic.

"Except for Vietnam and Oman, all group B teams had played at World Cup before. We can dream, but we also have to be realistic. The level of other teams are above Vietnam. Perhaps, we should focus on beating teams like Oman and China so we could avoid ending at the bottom. This round is the premise for Vietnam to evaluate their level accurately and aim for the next World Cup in 2026, where Asia will have 8.5 slots instead of the present 4.5."

The football expert explained more about how much this qualifying round means to Vietnam.

"I must say this is the most successful landmark in the history of Vietnamese football. It surpasses the success of the AFF Cup title, SEA Games gold or being runner-up at AFC U23 Championship in 2018. It can create an effect on the development of tournaments, clubs and players."

Via the final qualification round, he said, Vietnam will know where they stand on the Asian football map. Vietnamese football is having its most talented generation yet, and in the next 10 games, people will know the true level of this generation.

Xuong gave some suggestions on how Vietnam should prepare for the final round, set to begin in September.

"Firstly, we need to adapt quickly to the tough upcoming schedule that bounces between club and national team football. Secondly, Vietnam need more options to fill in the absence of Nguyen Hung Dung and Nguyen Tuan Anh in the midfield. Without these two, our defensive ability in the midfield is significantly reduced. "

If the two players don’t recover and return soon, coach Park Hang-seo should give the chance to the young players he brought along for the second qualifying round in June but didn’t use, Xuong said.

The final World Cup qualification round is scheduled to be played on Sept. 2 and 7, Oct. 7 and 12, Nov. 11 and 16, 2021, as well as Jan. 27 and Feb. 1, March 24 and 29, 2022.

Group A has Iran, Iraq, South Korea, UAE, Syria and Lebanon.

The 12 teams of two groups will play home-and-away, round-robin matches. The top two teams of each group will qualify for 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while the two third-placed teams advance to the Asian playoff to battle for a spot in the intercontinental playoff.

Vietnam will play the first game of the final round on Sept. 2 against Saudi Arabia.

Vietnam in the second World Cup qualifying round. Video by VnExpress/Hoang Khanh.

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