FIFA confirmed the tentative schedule on Friday, with Vietnam’s opponents in group G set to play their matches between January 24 and February 1. In this period, Thailand will meet with Indonesia and UAE with Malaysia.
The Golden Dragons will only return to Malaysia between March 22 and 30. FIFA will allow a maximum two matches to be played during this time, so chances are Vietnam can play its next game against Indonesia in March or between May 31 and June 15. Vietnam will also play its final group G match against UAE.
The detailed schedule will be announced by FIFA in due course.
This is the second time World Cup qualification games in Asia got postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Previously, they were rescheduled from March and June to October and November this year.
Vietnam was supposed to play its remaining three qualifiers against Malaysia on October 13, Indonesia on November 12, and UAE on November 17. It meant to prepare for these games by gathering players for training on August 18 and playing a friendly against Kyrgyzstan on October 8.
With the latest delay, Vietnam’s national football team will not be competing in any international tournaments for 2020.
Next year will be a busy one for coach Park Hang-seo as he will have to prepare the U23 team for AFC U23 Championship 2022 qualifiers, the national team for World Cup 2022 qualifiers and AFF Cup, and the U22 team for SEA Games 31 hosted in Vietnam.
Park has prioritized World Cup 2022 qualifiers, saying he wants Vietnam to advance to the final qualification round for the first time in history.
“We are putting our focus on World Cup qualifiers because we have never made it through the second qualification round. I’m managing two teams and with the heavy schedule in 2021, it will be really busy for me. But I’m targeting World Cup qualifiers as the most important goal. When V. League returns, I will assemble the national team to be best prepared for the qualifiers,” Park told VnExpress on Tuesday.
V. League was suspended in late July due to the resurgence of Covid-19, and is expected to return in October.
The Golden Dragons are topping group G in World Cup 2022 qualifiers with 11 points, three wins and two goalless draws. Following them closely are Malaysia (nine points), Thailand (eight points) and UAE (six points but they played one game less). Indonesia has been disqualified after losing all five games.
Vietnam will need to get a minimum of seven points from the remaining three matches to advance to the final round of World Cup 2022 qualifiers.