Final Round of 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers

Can Vietnam cause a shock against China in World Cup qualifiers?

Thursday, 2021-10-07 17:57:04
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The Vietnamese team during a training session in UAE to prepare for the match against their Chinese rivals in the final round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. (Photo: VFF)
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NDO – The Vietnam team with their many strengths can certainly cause a shock against China as the two neighbours are set to face off in their Group B match in the final round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers at 00:00 am on Friday.

This is the first of two matched of coach Park Hang-seo's team against China. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, host China asked for the Shajah Stadium in the UAE as a neutral ground for the game, as well as delaying the kick-off time by a few hours later in the evening to avoid the hot weather in the Middle East.

After the first two matchdays in Group B, both teams have no points following two consecutive losses. Although entering the final qualifying round for the first time ever, Vietnam have showed resilience in the previous matches, scoring a goal against Saudi Arabia and making their strong Asian opponents struggle to get the victory. Meanwhile, China with their star naturalised players do not have a single goal after two matches and are at the bottom of Group B, behind Vietnam due to poor goal difference.

The Vietnamese team will not have two important defenders, Van Hau and Trong Hoang, while no.1 goalkeeper Van Lam is injured. However, Park has prepared quite carefully during the recent training camps. The players practiced a lot of counter-attacks, tactical moves and smooth coordination, while maintaining a tight defensive playing style but still remaining ready to switch to attack when given the opportunity.

The Chinese team also faces difficulties and it is unlikely they will have their strongest squad as their brightest striker Wei Shihao is injured. He was the best player in the Chinese squad during the past two matches, even more impressive than Wu Lei - playing for Espanyol in La Liga. Wei Shihao suffered an injury after a 1-1 friendly draw with the Syrian team on September 30 and is unlikely to play.

In addition, 21-year-old defender Zhu Chenjie has not been present in the last two training sessions and will almost certainly not be able to take to the field. Their captain Wu Xi was previously suspended. A series of other Chinese players such as midfielders Yin Hongbo, Wang Shangyuan, Jin Jingdao, and Wang Qiuming, as well as striker Guo Tianyu have not been in the best of form.

According to the Chinese media, the country's team will have at least six players (Li Lei, Wei Shihao, Yin Hongbo, Wang Shangyuan, Wang Qiuming and Dong Chunyu) absent for the match.

In terms of squad value as well as match history, the Chinese side are better than Vietnam. They are no. 75 in the FIFA rankings, 20 places above Vietnam. But under the reign of Park, Vietnamese football has made great progress. The team has created many great surprises thanks to their ability to coordinate counter-attacks. Vietnamese fans are hoping that the home team will have a strong breakthrough.

Coach Park Hang-seo and his players are ready to surprise their Chinese rivals. (Photo: VFF)

Commenting on the strength of the Vietnamese team, international football experts have noticed the limitations of their physique and fitness. But like Vietnamese fans, they still expect the team to create a surprise when the current Chinese team is not strong and is in decline. In recent matches, in the hands of coach Li Tie, they did not have a stable defence and had to rotate a series of players including Tyias Browning, Zang Linpeng, Yu Dibao or Li Ang, but they still revealed weaknesses on both wings which their opponents can take advantage of.

Even if not in good form, the Chinese team is still a very strong opponent for the Vietnamese side. However, that does not mean Vietnam have no chance of defeating them.

After two losses, the Chinese side must win to keep their World Cup dream. But that also places huge pressure on Li Tie's side. This is a problem, because over the years, China's competitive mentality has always been questioned. They tend to give up, lose focus, and collapse easily under pressure or when things don't follow their plans.

They are likely to play with a 4-3-3 system as it serves their ambition to win, while at the same time being suitable for the quality attacking players that Li Tie has in striker Guo Tianyu, the star playing for Espanyol Wu Lei and the naturalised striker Elkeson, the highest scorer in Chinese Super League history (106 goals).
China's strategy will be to play long balls for Tianyu's head, or to take advantage of counter attack opportunities with Wu Lei and Elkeson both having good technique and the ability to finish from distance.

But the Vietnamese team is no stranger to this style of play. Defenders Duy Manh who will return from suspension, and Tien Dung, have faced many tall players who are fond of playing long balls many times.

Recently in the 1-0 loss to Australia, Vietnam were quite successful in controlling their opponents. Except for only moment leading to the conceded goal, Vietnam faced almost no obvious danger while creating many sharp counter-attacks. They can bring the same problem to the Chinese team. Looking back at the two recent defeats against Australia and Japan, the Chinese defence played badly, especially the central defenders who lacked speed, often making mistakes in position and letting the opponents pass easily.

So the speed, flexibility and quick coordination of the Vietnamese players are useful. If players in the attacking line like Tien Linh, Cong Phuong, Quang Hai and Van Duc play at their best, and make good use of the opportunities they have, Vietnam absolutely can look for a win.

Experts said that facing a stronger team, Vietnam need to make good use of counterattacks. The forward line will be the most important factor affecting the score. Cong Phuong's return is once again expected to help the Vietnamese team's attack force the opponent to be cautious. He has a habit of stirring up the opponent's defence, creating conditions for other strikers like Tien Linh or midfielders Quang Hai, Hoang Duc and Tuan Anh to get more space and opportunities to finish.

Over the past two years, experts and fans have highly appreciated the competitive spirit of the Vietnamese team, always fighting and giving their best until the last minute. The "Golden Star Warriors" are determined to get points and then prepare for the second leg match against China at Hanoi’s My Dinh Stadium next year, and with that mentality, they can surely succeed!

Vietnam have lost to China nine times in their previous confrontations. However, they are very different now, both in terms of professional quality and competitive spirit. The "Golden Star Warriors" can change history and make new milestones, just as they have always amazed fans in the past few years.