Mongolia's World Cup dream

Photo: Mongolian Football Federation
Mongolia enters the 2022 World Cup qualifying after being shafted in the 2018 Russian World Cup qualifying. Defeated by East-Timor in the first round of qualifiers for Russia, news then came out that East-Timor had used a gaggle of players from Brazil who were ineligible to represent East-Timor. 

Mongolia was awarded two 3-0 wins which are now on the record for the last World Cup qualifiers, but that was no use to Mongolia, who missed out on the chance of entering the group stage.

Shafted out of qualifying 

When the first round draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifying was made, Mongolia must have thought that they had a pretty good chance of making it to the next round, and enter the group stage which is so valuable to smaller nations, because it guarantees a certain number of competitive matches, which wouldn't be available to countries such as Mongolia if they fail in the first round.

Failing in the first round is exactly what happened to the Mongolians, however, news came out that East-Timor had fielded a host of players from Brazil who weren't eligible to represent East-Timor. Once that happened, Mongolia should have been instantly reinstated into the qualifiers, but because the AFC didn't deal with it quickly, the group stage was nearly concluded by the time it had been dealt with.

Therefore, the AFC's conclusion was that Mongolia would be awarded two 3-0 wins, and East-Timor would be banned from the Asian Cup as a result. This wasn't any use to Mongolia, who had to do without World Cup matches for 3 years. East-Timor was not banned from the World Cup amazingly, even though the offense occurred in World Cup qualifying, which was something to do with the fact that the AFC dealt with the situation or something like this.

Mongolia will be looking to get past the first round, and slay the demons of East-Timorgate ensuring they get those much-coveted group stage games, that countries such as Mongolia need in the pursuit of developing their local game and for the promotion of football in the country.

Mongolia vs Brunei

Mongolia drew Brunei in the first round draw, and last time out Brunei lost over two legs against Taiwan. Brunei amazingly managed to win in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in the first leg. Getting a 1-0 victory which was much unexpected, but then the news came out that match-fixing could have been in play for this game, then it does make you wonder if the match-fixing happened and had an effect on the outcome.

What we can confirm though, is the match-fixing was never proved, so there is no way of knowing if it was even true, but the allegation will continue to linger long into the future. After that away win, Brunei went into the second leg at home knowing that all they had to do was not lose by 2 clear goals, and they would be in the group stage. Unfortunately for Brunei, that's exactly what happened. They lost by two clear goals and were dumped out of the World Cup on home soil.

Mongolia will be looking to emulate Taiwan, in disposing of Taiwan, and Mongolian football is undergoing something of a transformation, with new pitches being built, and the league gaining some small level of exposure through the Mycujoo app, then Mongolia really needs to defeat Brunei. Getting those World Cup matches will really benefit the local league, local players and help with promotion of football. We do think Mongolia will have too much for Brunei, but it will be a close match over the two legs.

Mongolia's only World Cup qualifying scorer

Batmönkhiin Erkhembayar was Mongolia's only scorer in the previous World Cup qualifying for Russia 2018. The defender only has 7 caps for Mongolia, and 1 goal - that goal being in a 4-1 defeat at home to East-Timor, which as we have mentioned was awarded as a 3-0 win to Mongolia because of the East-Timorese cheating. 

Mongolia will need to have more than one goalscorer this time around if they have any hope of going through, but their performance in getting to the second round of the EAFF should give them cause for hope with Mongolia performing very well in the first round, winning the group and qualifying for the second round. 

EAFF first round gives Mongolia cautious optimism

Mongolia hosted and won the first round of the EAFF (East Asian Football Federation) Championship, and this will give Mongolia some cautious optimism because the teams involved in the first round of this competition are at a similar level of the teams they would have potentially face in the first round draw. 

Malaysia were the elephant in the room for the first round World Cup draw, as I believe they are in a slight false ranking position due to their very poor form over recent years, apart from Malaysia however every other team taking part in the first round is equal in quality to the teams in the EAFF first round if you take out the Northern Mariana Islands.

Mongolia, Macau and Guam are capable of getting past most teams in the draw, and with Mongolia drawing Brunei then they have a solid chance of getting through because it would be highly debatable whether Brunei would get through the EAFF like Mongolia did.

Mongolia played 3 matches in that first round against, Macau, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. They defeated Macau 4-1, Northern Mariana Islands 9-0, and drew 1-1 with Guam to top the group, and proceed to the second round where they failed to win a game, but this is considered progress as I don't believe they have succeeded in the first round of the EAFF until the last competition. 

Best player and top scorer of the EAFF belong to Mongolia

Mongolia will be looking to the players who helped them get through that EAFF first round, to help them overcome the resistance that Brunei will offer up. Mongolia had the top scorer and best player of the first round, and they will need these guys to shine again. 

Baljinnyam Batbold was top scorer of the competition with 3 goals, but two of those goals came against the weakest side in the tournament Northern Mariana Islands. The argument is you need to be in the right place to score, regardless who the opposition is. Putting the ball in the back of the net is the hardest thing to do on the pitch and its why your striker is one of the most important players in your team. If you have a bloke who can pop the ball in and score often then you're definitely going to be in business, Mongolia may look to Batbold to get the goals against Brunei. Can he deliver on a bigger stage, Mongolia will be hoping so. 

Norjmoogiin Tsedenbal was the best player from the first round of the EAFF, and Mongolia will be looking to him to shine alongside Batbold, the pair don't have many caps between them, but then Mongolia doesn't really play many games. If the pair are selected, they have shown in the EAFF that they can produce the goods. The lingering thoughts are can they do it on a bigger stage but now is the time for them to prove they can do, and drag Mongolian football into the second round. 

Mongolia's World Cup record

Mongolia has a dismal World Cup record since they began trying to qualify, the team has only 1 qualifying match out of 14 in their entire history. If they are to get to the second qualifying round, then that will have to change, to at least 2, because they could get through with a win and a draw.

Out of their 14 qualifying matches between 2002 to 2018, they have won 1, drew 1, lost 12 and during that process of games spanning 16 years, they have scored a miserly 6 goals while conceding a whopping 51. That record alone shows that Mongolia should only be considered slight favorites for their game against Brunei despite being the seeded team.

After only two qualifying games with Brunei, if they get to the group stage, that record would be vastly improved already. Mongolia has a massive chance to get to the next round because Brunei is by no means the strongest side in the unseeded section of the draw, but because of how close the sides at the bottom of Asia are in terms of quality, then Brunei will still pose a difficult obstacle for Mongolia to surpass. I believe they can qualify this time around unless Brunei rock up with a load of recently nationalized Brazilians to rock the apple cart like East-Timor. 

We predict that Mongolia with only a 1 goal victory over two legs, but Mongolia won't mind if they get to the second round winning by only 1 goal or 5 goals. They will desperately want to improve their terrible record in World Cup qualifying. 

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