FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers

Can Golden Stars make a surprise against Socceroos?

Tuesday, 2021-09-07 10:24:57
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Vietnamese players during a training session in Hanoi ahead of their second match in Group B of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar against Australia. (Photo: Vietnam Football Federation)
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NDO – Vietnam is set to play Australia for the first time ever at the national team level amid a huge challenge as some key players are forced to be absent. However, coach Park Hang-seo has vowed that they will do their best.

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Tonight at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, the hosts welcome Australia in their second match in Group B of the final round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

Both teams got their campaigns underway last Thursday in contrasting fashion, with Australia gaining an impressive 3-0 win over China, while Vietnam started brightly but ultimately fell to a 3-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia, despite the absence of key midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai put Park Hang-seo's team ahead after just three minutes at King Saud University Stadium.

After losing to Saudi Arabia away from home, the Vietnamese team lost centre-back Duy Manh for the match against Australia due to a red card in the opener. In addition, defender Dinh Trong was determined to have torn his thigh muscle and will not be able to play. Not to mention that defender Bui Tien Dung previously suffered a torn groin muscle and will continue to be absent from the match against Australia.

That has made the defensive line of the Vietnamese team more fragile than ever. Therefore, Park has a headache in finding a way to strengthen the defence against one of the strongest rivals in Group B.

It is likely that the Korean strategist will have to rely on young centre-back Bui Hoang Viet Anh in the match tonight, after suddenly removing him from the squad on the recent trip to Saudi Arabia. At the same time, on September 5, Coach Park Hang Seo also summoned defender Van Kien.

In addition to strengthening the defence, the hosts also needs to sharpen their attacks. During the trip to Saudi Arabia, the Vietnamese team played faintly as only striker Tien Linh was on the front line. Apart from Quang Hai's goal, the visitors had almost no sharp counterattacks.

Meanwhile, the Australians are on high mood after the 3-0 victory over China. It can be seen that Australia is a very strong team, even better than Japan who suddenly lost 1-0 to Oman in their opener.

In the victory over China, coach Graham Arnold operated a 4-2-3-1 formation with high pressing on the whole field that stunned the Chinese side, thereby easily winning three goals without answer.

In the upcoming match at My Dinh Stadium, in addition to strengthening defence and sharpening attacks, Park’s side also need to pay special attention to the opponent's central midfield duo Ajdin Hrustic and Jackson Irvine, as well as the "golden attacking quartet" including midfielder Awer Mabil (left), Tomas Rogic (middle), Martin Boyle (right) and striker Adam Taggart. This squad is capable of causing an extremely difficult match for the defence of Vietnam.

It should be added that Vietnam and Australia have never faced each other at the national team level. Looking at the strength of the team that have participated in the World Cup finals three times in a row from 2010, with many players playing in Europe, it can be said that the advantage is on the side of the away team.

Against a strong opponent like Australia, it's hard to dream, but whatever the result is, one thing is certain that the Vietnamese team will give their best.

“ Nguyen Quang Hai, does the name sound familiar? It probably should. There’s no shortage of talent in this Vietnamese side but Nguyen Quang Hai is an absolute star. A diminutive creative talent who plays his club football with V-League side Hanoi FC, Quang Hai scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over the Olyroos back in January 2018 [at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship].”

Quang Hai celebrates his opener against Saudi Arabia with teammates during the first match in Group B of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar on September 2, 2021. (Photo: Asian Football Confederation)

The Roar (https://www.theroar.com.au) wrote that before the encounter at My Dinh. Recalling that more than 3 years ago in Changzhou (China), after a chaotic situation in front of the Australian goal, Quang Hai was quick enough to deliver a decisive shot. The ball hit an Australian defender's foot and went straight into the corner of the net to the surprise of the Australians.

Before the 2018 AFC U23 Championship, Vietnam were not appreciated high and opened with a defeat against the Republic of Korea. But Park's side created shock as they beat Australia in the next match, and then confidence has increased and Quang Hai and his teammates went straight to the final.

Now against Australia, Vietnam can live with such inspiration from that victory. Of course Socceroos are on a very different level than Olyroos (U23 Australia), but among the players who came to Hanoi this time there are also a few names who were present in the match in Changzhou, such as Riley McGree and Ajdin Hrustic. Both played in the recent 3-0 victory over China, and played an important role in the team.

This is similar to Quang Hai and his teammates from the Changzhou campaign. They have grown tremendously in terms of skills, tactics and experience. The recent goal against Saudi Arabia showed how far Quang Hai has come.

Vietnamese players have come a long way since then. But the desire to win remains intact. Just look at the way the players fought back against Saudi Arabia, the way they rolled, blocked the ball with their bodies or weaved between tall opponents together with the hunger for glory and the determination to pursue the goal.

Vietnam did not keep the advantage, finally receiving defeat in the opening match. But they didn't in the 2018 AFC U23 Championship, Quang Hai and his teammates also lost in that opening match? And what happened in the second game against Australia, and then after that?

In nearly 4 years of leading the Vietnam team, the greatest success of Park is not in trophies. The great thing he brings is confidence, the spirit of fighting to the end, and daring to dream attitude to the whole team. It was with that "dare to play and play hard" approach that they are here and facing Australia again.

Unfortunately, all the disadvantages are on Park’s sides. Injuries and cards have deprived his best players, while COVID-19 prevention rules have prevented fans from being present at My Dinh to cheer on the team.

Meanwhile, Australia is very strong. The team ranked 35th in the world and 3rd in Asia has won all 9 consecutive matches of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. They are not only good in attack but also solid in defence, very good in the air and also modern and smart in gameplay. Australia has only 1 player playing football at home. In contrast, Vietnam only have 1 player playing football abroad – goalie Dang Van Lam in Japan.

Against such opponents, it is hard to dream. But no matter what happens, all Vietnamese fans know that the Golden Star Warriors "dare to play and play hard," with faith in the good in the end.

Although it will not be easy, professionals and Vietnamese football lovers hope that Park Hang-seo's side can make a surprise in My Dinh Stadium.