Midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai (in red) dribbles past Thailand players during World Cup qualification match on November 19, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.
The on form Golden Dragons have lost all advantage after FIFA rescheduled World Cup qualifiers to next year.
If World Cup 2022 Asian qualifiers took place as initially scheduled in October and November this year, Vietnam would have held a great advantage in terms of preparation and player form compared to group G opponents.
Domestic football returned in May after two-month delay due to Covid-19, and was only postponed again in late July due to the new outbreak in the country.
Meanwhile, domestic leagues in Thailand, UAE, Malaysia and Indonesia have all been frozen since March, which could considerably affect player performance.
Due to the unpredictable nature of Covid-19 globally, FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have decided to move all qualification matches to March 2021, affording no team a head start.
Vietnam will face another challenge with AFF Cup moved late this year to next April. This means it would have to play two tournaments within roughly a month.
Successfully defending its AFF Cup title and advancing to the next qualification round of World Cup remain top priorities for the team. UAE, not participating in AFF Cup, is the only team to not face similar pressure.
Besides the advantage of time and stamina, UAE has also recruited experienced Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto as new manager. Indonesia also appointed a new coach, South Korean Shin Tae-young.
In 2020, both Malaysia and UAE signed foreign players to boost their respective squads.
The Golden Dragons were supposed to gather for training on August 16 and play Kyrgyzstan in a friendly on October 8 to prepare for World Cup qualifiers, but the former got canceled and the latter has yet to be confirmed.