Southeast Asian teams competing in the midweek qualifiers failed to take full points from their respective encounters.
Except for Thailand and Indonesia, who collected a point each after a 2-2 draw in Dubai, other teams suffered defeat in the qualifying rounds for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023. Vietnam and the Philippines did not play on the particular matchdays.
Lack of competitive matches prior to the qualifiers due to the uncertainties and turmoil, both Myanmar and Cambodia couldn’t play at their very best and at the risk of being eliminated from the road to China 2023.
Myanmar suffered a heavy 10-0 to classy Japan in Chiba, while Cambodia conceded eight goals in the hands of Bahrain in Manama. Later on, neighbours Malaysia and Singapore both were hammered in their campaign, with 4-0 defeats to the United Arab Emirates and Palestine, respectively. The defeats were the heaviest inflicted by both teams since their campaign began in 2019.
The results are seen as sluggish as most Southeast Asian teams struggled to gain their best momentum hampered for more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In particular, Malaysia’s cosmopolitan lineups with new naturalised players failed to stop UAE’s energetic play. The result could be complicated for Harimau Malaya in their attempt to automatically qualify for the Asian Cup.
Meanwhile, in Riyadh, Singapore played without several key players and was blunt in front of the goal. They were trailing 3-0 in the first half and with much hope to salvage some in the second half, Palestine nailed the coffin with an 85th-minute goal by Yaser Hamed.
In Group G, Indonesia finally took a point since the campaign started by drawing with Thailand. A rejuvenated Garuda under Shin Tae-yong, the result is seen as a positive encouragement by being able to rise twice after being outscored by the War Elephants.
The draw affected Thailand much as they are now tied with group rivals UAE and Malaysia at nine points, making the current standing in the group still open with Vietnam sitting atop with 11 points.
With only two matches in hand, chances for Southeast Asian teams to advance to the third round of the World Cup seem bleak, yet with much determination their fate could be overturned by producing good results and convincing performance.
Next Monday and Tuesday will see the Philippines facing China, Singapore against Uzbekistan, Thailand playing UAE, and Vietnam to challenge Indonesia. On these match days, Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia will not play.
THE BRUNEIAN | KUALA LUMPUR