Neither home nor away: Vietnam could benefit at World Cup qualifiers

By Hoang Nguyen   May 15, 2020 | 10:00 pm PT
Neither home nor away: Vietnam could benefit at World Cup qualifiers
Vietnam national football team can gain great advantages if World Cup 2022 qualifiers change its format. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.
The ‘Golden Dragons’ may avoid the disadvantage of playing away matches if the format of World Cup 2022 qualifiers is tweaked.

With the Covid-19 pandemic situation in Asia proving unpredictable, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has prepared a backup plan for the World Cup 2022 qualifiers to take place in the last months of this year.

In case the situation is not under control, the AFC will organize remaining games for all teams at neutral grounds without spectators. All the fixtures will take about 10-15 days to complete, under the backup plan.

Playing on neutral venues will guarantee safety for national teams as they don’t have to move regularly, especially to Covid-19 hotspots in the region. Shortening the time table for the qualifier matches will also help other countries complete their domestic leagues this season in time, without conflicting too much with the World Cup qualifiers’ schedule.

Playing on neutral grounds, removing the home and away element, can benefit some countries, including Vietnam. According to the current tentative schedule, Vietnam only get to play one game at home against Indonesia. The remaining two matches are away games against tough opponents Malaysia and UAE.

On the contrary, UAE will suffer a big disadvantage if the current schedule is changed. They were set to play all their remaining matches at home, which is a huge advantage, with big crowds backing the hosts.

For Vietnam, if the qualification round schedule is curtailed to 10-15 days, coach Park Hang-seo and his players will have more time to rest and prepare to defend their title in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup 2020, set to start in November.

If the Covid-19 situation improves, the 2022 World Cup qualifiers stick to the current schedule. Vietnam will play Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur on October 13, return home to face Indonesia on November 12 and play away against UAE five days later.

After five games, Vietnam remain unbeaten with 11 points, topping group G. They will advance to the final qualification round if they can get seven points from the remaining three matches.

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