| Fadhil Yunus |
BRUNEI Darussalam national football team have been drawn against Mongolia in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1 following a draw at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia yesterday.
The Wasps will begin their qualifying campaign in an away leg in Mongolia on June 6 before hosting the Blue Wolves in the home leg at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas on June 11.
The other ties saw Macau being paired with Sri Lanka, Laos with Bangladesh, Malaysia with Timor Leste, Cambodia with Pakistan and Bhutan with Guam.
Brunei last participated in the first round of World Cup qualifying in 2015 when they lost 2-1 in aggregate against Taiwan.
The 12 lowest ranked teams in the AFC rankings were divided into six pairings of two teams where they will play home and away matches with each other, with the winners qualifying for the preliminary joint qualification round 2.
During the draw, the first drawn ball corresponded to the team that will host the first leg match while the second ball drawn to the host team for the return leg match of the preliminary joint qualification round 1.
Six teams ranked from 35 to 40 in the first pot were drawn into the position of Team A while another six teams ranked from 41 to 46 in the second pot were drawn into the position of Team B.
The draw mechanism explained that the first team to be drawn from the first pot was positioned as Team A of pairing 1 while the first team to be drawn from the second pot was positioned as Team B of pairing 1. The same procedure applied for all remaining teams.
The six winners in the first qualification round will join the AFC nations ranked from 1 to 34 in the second round to make it a pool of 40 teams.
Qualification for the 2022 World Cup will also double as a qualifying stage for the 2023 Asian Cup, with teams advancing from the second round of the qualification process booking a ticket to the Asian Cup finals.
National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) Technical Director John Whittle offered his thoughts on the draw against Mongolia.
“Obviously the draw is always going to be a difficult one regardless who we play. Every game is difficult these days.”
He said, “I’m sure it is a big challenge for us but we’ll be up for it and we’ll be ready for it.”
Whittle, appointed in his current role since August 2018, also shared his thoughts on the Mongolia national team.
“In recent years, they brought in a German coach who has done a very good job, changing the foundations there with the national team. They had reasonable results of late so as I’ve said, it will be a challenge for us.
“Previously, the Suzuki Cup was our last result losing to Timor Leste. But we’re going through a new time, a new era and hopefully things can change.”
He added, “We can change little bit of the culture and little bit of the national team environment and work in a positive manner towards this game.”
Football’s top brass has also wished the 12 qualifying participants who will kick off a long campaign the best of luck with FIFA President Gianni Infantino leading the way.
The President in a special message said, “The road to Qatar starts in less than two months and it will bring us to the second World Cup in history being played in Asia.
“A World Cup which will unite the entire world, the Gulf region, Asia and all the continents in friendship, sportsmanship and fair play.”
“I wish all Asian teams the very best of luck in this qualification campaign.”
Meanwhile, AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said, “For only the second time in history, the world’s biggest footballing stage returns to Asia in Qatar 2022.
“On behalf of the Asian football family, I wish all our teams the very best of luck and I am confident we will witness another thrilling qualifying campaign.”
Panel experts expressed their views on the first round battles especially Malaysia, which has been the central focus of the first round qualifying.
Indonesia head coach Simon McMenemy said, “I think a lot of the interest will circulate around Malaysia seeing how they get on against the supposedly smaller nations. This is going to be hotly contested and it will be a cup final for all of the small teams.”