Head coach Park Hang-seo will have some hard decisions to make ahead of the national team's next World Cup qualifier against Malaysia due to the spread of the deadly new coronavirus.
Head coach Park Hang-seo
The second-round match in Kuala Lumpur is scheduled for March 31, but the Korean coach's charges may not get much game time ahead of the match.
In response to the virus, the National Sports Administration postponed all tournaments in the national and international competition system in Vietnam, including the National Super Cup, National Cup, V.League 1 and National First Division Football Tournament.
The postponement could be indefinite, depending on the progression of the epidemic, meaning the national squad could largely be made up of players lacking in match fitness.
The top-flight V.League 1 was set to begin on February 21, but may now start on March 7, leaving time for only three rounds of fixtures before the national team convenes to prepare for Malaysia.
However, the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) is still bullish about the Vietnamese players’ form.
“The national top-flight will have only three or four rounds before it stops for the World Cup. But it is enough for footballers to get their form. Moreover, before facing Malaysia, Vietnam will have a friendly match with Iraq on March 26,” said VFF Secretary General Le Hoai Anh.
“The friendly will be an important test to help coach Park in the away turf of Malaysia. Of course, the national team will always be united by the VFF and Park. It depends on the situation of coronavirus,” Anh added.
Without much time to prepare, coach Park is likely to rely on veterans such as goalie Dang Van Lam, defender Que Ngoc Hai, midfielders Do Hung Dung, Nguyen Quang Hai and striker Nguyen Tien Linh, instead of blooding new players.
Vietnam will have to do without key players Nguyen Trong Hoang and Tran Dinh Trong in the qualifier as both are suspended.
Midfielder Trong received a red card in the last match of Vietnam in the AFC U23 Championship in January, while Hoang has picked up two yellow cards in World Cup qualifiers.
Hoang has been a mainstay as the right wingback for coach Park for more than two years, making him tough to replace.
At present, Vietnam lead Group G with 11 points after five matches, followed by Malaysia with nine points.
To win the direct ticket to the final World Cup qualifying round, Vietnam will have to finish on top of Group G or qualify as one of the four best runners-up among the eight groups./.