Vietnam stands to gain more than lose if the World Cup 2022 qualifier matches are postponed to 2021.
Victor Montagliani, Vice President of FIFA, has said that international football matches, including World Cup qualifiers, could be pushed back to 2021.
“I personally think that might be a bit of a challenge, not so much because of just the health issues around the world and the various degrees of preparedness, but also committing to international travel as soon as we come back. I’m fairly confident the March window in 2021 will be fine,” Montagliani told the press last month.
Although the postponement remains in the realm of possibility till FIFA issues an official statement, if it happens, Vietnam will have a far better chance of meeting their goal of advancing to the next round of the World Cup 2022 qualifiers.
The most important benefit the national team will get is, of course, time. Key players like Luong Xuan Truong, Do Duy Manh and Tran Dinh Trong will get more time to recover fully from serious injuries and find their form. Coach Park Hang-seo will also have more time to find new faces and make better plans for the team.
The domestic leagues, especially V. League 1, will enjoy greater comfort in arranging their schedule for the season if the World Cup qualifiers are moved from October this year to March next year. Clubs won’t have to worry about their players losing stamina due to a tightly packed schedule.
At the moment, V. League 1 will have only four months to finish the season when it returns as expected on May 23, since the national team needs to gather for training at least two weeks before playing against Malaysia on October 13.
The national team can also focus fully on AFF Cup 2020, a title they are keen to defend. The tournament is set to be played from November 23 to December 31, and postponing the WC qualifiers until next year will mean that the team will not have to worry about playing two intense tournaments in as many months.
Of course, the likely drawback of this schedule adjustment is that it will make 2021 a busy year for coach Park, saddled as he is with several targets. Next year, he will have to coach the U23 team for the 2022 AFC U23 Championship qualifiers and then prepare to defend the SEA Games gold medal when the biennial event is hosted by Vietnam.
In addition, other teams in group G of the World Cup 2022 qualifiers, Thailand, Malaysia and the UAE, will also have more time to prepare and strengthen their squad in vying for the first place and a direct qualification spot for the next round.
FIFA has already called off qualifier matches scheduled to be held in March and June because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The new, tentative schedule is for Vietnam to play Malaysia on October 13, Indonesia on November 12 and UAE on November 17.
Vietnamese football fans, meanwhile, will keep their eyes and ears open for the latest updates on all schedules.