The Local Game: When high expectations are a good thing

October 05, 2021 - 17:18
It feels like just yesterday we were dissecting Việt Nam’s close-run defeats to Australia and Saudi Arabia, and now we’re back for more World Cup action.


The Vietnamese squad training in the UAE last week. Photo

Peter Cowan

It feels like just yesterday we were dissecting Việt Nam’s close-run defeats to Australia and Saudi Arabia, and now we’re back for more World Cup action.

This time though, I think it’s fair to say there’s a lot more hope of coming out of the two fixtures with some points.

When the draw was made and all the teams in Group B of the third round of World Cup qualifying were revealed, I think most people circled the China and Oman matches as Việt Nam’s best chance of getting on the board.

Since then, Oman kicked off qualifying with a shock 1-0 victory over Japan and a narrow loss to Saudi Arabia, so the away match in Muscat next Tuesday may prove a tougher test than first anticipated.

China, though, are there for the taking in my opinion, but a former Việt Nam Football Federation (VFF) bigwig doesn’t see it the same way.

The former VFF general secretary Phan Anh Tú told that Vietnamese fans should reign in their expectations for defeating China.

"The fans are really anticipating this match and I also heard some opinions that Việt Nam should target three points against China," Tú said. 

"However, we need to look into the reality here. Many of their players are playing overseas, especially Wu Lei (playing for Espanyol in Spain). They are more powerful than us. However, their problem is that they haven't found a suitable style of play. In addition, they might also need to improve their mentality.

"I believe China have learned a lot after two losses. Their target and determination in the game with Việt Nam will be really high. Plus the disadvantage in physique and stamina, Việt Nam will face many setbacks. Earning a point is perhaps the reasonable target for Việt Nam in this game." 

Never mind the factual inaccuracy of saying China have “many” members of their squad playing abroad, I think Tú is ignoring several factors around the game that should encourage the Vietnamese side.

China will be the home team when this match kicks off late on Thursday night, but in name only. Due to the country’s strict quarantine requirements, Li Tie’s side have to play their home matches thousands of miles from home in the UAE.

Not only that, but the Chinese squad have been in the UAE since early September in a training camp.

While this means they should be well-prepared to face Việt Nam, being away from your home, your own bed and your friends and family for so long does have an impact on a player.

It would be easy for members of the Chinese squad to question why they are putting themselves through the physical rigors of professional sport so far from home, with no contact with their loved ones and without their fans to spur them on. I don’t think that can be easily discounted, especially since this is a derby of sorts and the Vietnamese side will likely not be short of motivation.

When the reverse fixture is played early next year in Hà Nội, here's hoping the COVID-19 situation has abated enough to allow Mỹ Đình Stadium to be packed to the rafters so the home fans can show the Chinese side what they’ve been missing.

So, while I appreciate Tú may be trying to dampen expectations to make life easier for coach Park Hang-seo and his charges, I think he’s dead wrong here.

Sometimes, expectations are a good thing, as they mean people think a lot of your abilities. Vietnamese fans expect three points against China, and they’re not wrong to. VNS