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Vietnam face tough COVID-19 challenge ahead of Asian Cup

A COVID-19 outbreak among the Vietnamese women's team is threatening their participation in the AFC Asian Women's Cup.

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Vietnamese players seen during their Spanish training course. Their Asian Cup tournament is affected after some players tested positive for COVID-19. Photo courtesy of VFF

On January 16, one more player tested positive and has been isolated in a hotel in Pune, India, host country of the tournament.

The player, whose name has not been revealed, is the latest in the squad to test positive after 13 players and two doctors.

Five healthy players are continuing training under coach Mai Duc Chung and wait for other teammates who are coming from Spain where they practised and competed over the last three weeks.

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Coach Mai Duc Chung (left), VFF official Truong Hai Tung (second, right) and VIetnamese players receive welcome flowers from Consul General of Vietnam in Mumbai Hoang Tung (second, left) when they arrived in India on Sunday. Photo courtesy of VFF

According to the tournament's regulations, a team must have at least 18 players and maximum 23 players registered for a match. Otherwise, they would be kicked out of the event.

The Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) is working hard to make sure Vietnam's participation.

VFF said among 23 members still in Spain, some have negative results and are expected to arrive in India on January 19. Meanwhile the F0 players are in stable conditions.

The national football governing body are also working on document procedures to send more players from Vietnam to India. However, due to the lack of flights, these players are able to fly on January 20 and will still miss the first match against South Korea on January 21.

VFF said they would do best to find earlier flights for them.

Coach Chung hopes he would have at least 11 players for the first match and would have further plans based on what develops.

"We discussed about difficulties and definitely that (the shortage of player) will strongly affect our results at the Asian Cup," said VFF General Secretary Le Hoai Anh.

"But we all do everything to solve the problem and hope that we will have enough players prior to first match against South Korea," he said, adding that AFC promised to have special policy to support Vietnam in this tough situation.

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Players left in Spain talk with their teammates in India. Photo screen shot by VFF

In preparation for the Asian Cup which is also a 2023 World Cup qualifier, Vietnamese players went to practise and compete in Spain from December 26-January 15.

The first player was positive with the COVID-19 was on January 11, several days after a match against Cordoba FC.

The Asian Cup is scheduled on January 20 to February 6. Vietnam are in Group C with South Korea, Japan and Myanmar. Matches are on January 21, 24 and 27, respectively. 

Despite powerful rivals, the Southeast Asian champion Vietnam set a target a place at the 2023 World Cup for the first time. 

To make that goal, they must be in top five at the Cup to qualify directly for the World Cup via the knockout stages or being one of two teams qualify from the inter-confederation play-offs.

The Vietnamese team is currently placed 32nd on the FIFA ranking and sixth in the Asian table.

Source: Vietnam News

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