Before and after COVID-19: Taiwan desperate for first ever World Cup qualifying group stage win

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The AFC (Asian Football Confederation) have announced the dates that they are hoping to re-start Asian World Cup qualifying on. Here we will have a rundown of all the teams from the EAFF (East Asian Football Confederation) and see how they have done so far before they resume their campaigns. Next up is Taiwan, who are in qualifying Group B.

Taiwan are desperately seeking their first World Cup group stage qualifying win 

Taiwan went into the group stages of World Cup qualifying full of optimism after being ranked in the highest position they've ever been in the FIFA World rankings of 130th hand being 3rd seeds for the qualifying draw.

That early optimism has since been sucker punched right out of them, after being drawn in a group with Jordan, Kuwait, Australia and Nepal no one really know what to make of it. Sides from the Middle East are always difficult to beat, Australia would walk it, and most folks didn't know much about Nepal but assumed Taiwan should beat them.

Taiwan's opening game of the campaign was at home to Jordan, and despite not playing well, they still kept battling and trying but in the end falling to a narrow 2-1 home defeat in Taipei. 

Jordan was expected to pummel Taiwan into the ground, based on the back of their Asian Cup finals performance. This meant that Taiwan still felt like they could secure their first-ever qualifying points, especially in the next match at home to Nepal.

Unfortunately for Taiwan, Nepal also saw them as their best chance to get World Cup qualifying points on the board, both sides performed poorly on the night, and neither team deserved a win, but Nepal got the all-important goals to push them to an unexpected 2-0 home defeat. 

This threw the campaign into disarray as the majority of fans thought this would be the moment the points would be achieved.

With some tough fixtures to follow, the campaign now looked like it was heading for disaster as Australia rolled into town. The match took place in the southern city of Kaohsiung, in the wonderful World Games stadium. 

In front of a very sparse crowd, Australia cruised to a 7-1 victory. They did perform admirably in this match, but it was the start of what was to be the downfall of manager Louis Lancaster. From this moment on, rightly or wrongly, it was clear that influential people behind the scenes had stopped believing in him, with the pressure to get results clearly being piled on.

Arriving in the Middle East so close to the games left Taiwan poorly prepared

So, in the famous words of Keegan. Taiwan had to go to Jordan and Kuwait and get something, and obviously, we're still fighting for some god damn points. The pressure was visible on Louis' noggin, as Taiwan took to the field in Kuwait. The lack of time spent preparing in the Middle East looked like it had planted lead in Taiwan's player's legs.

If you're playing in important matches, you should be well prepared, especially when travelling for so long, and through so many time zones. It is also factually proven that the effect of going back in time messes you up more than going forward in time. 

Something many people can testify to, jetlag was never really taken into account, but it isn't an excuse for the defeat, but it does go some way into explaining why the match ended in a 9-0 victory for Kuwait.

These small things matter in high-level sports, the countries who acknowledge it will give themselves a better chance of success than the ones who don't. I don't expect Taiwan will have learnt from their mistakes by the time they travel to high altitude Nepal. As even non-professionals know you can't rock up to a high-altitude country a day or two before a match and expect a good performance.

After that crushing 9-0 defeat, the Taiwanese media went into overdrive, fully focused on the scoreline alone. I'd be amazed if any of the media writing about the match even watched, most only likely saw the score the day after and decided to have rage. 

There are a lot of factors to take into account, such as bad travel arrangements (which we have explained), most the leagues in the Middle East are professional, and players there are playing at a much higher level than in Taiwan. 

These are all factors that count although 9-0 is still embarrassing, after these 'excuses' or 'factual statements' the only other thing to say about is that Taiwan didn't have the bottle for it, and they didn't have the stomach for the fight. Some individuals do, but collectively as a team, they do not. 

Taiwan followed up this game, with a 5-0 humping in Jordan to be thoroughly battered from pillar to post. After the two matches alone, Taiwan conceded 14 and scored none. On paper that is horrific by any standards, I briefly touched upon the factors that don't help once the country come up against opposition with higher standard players, and professional leagues, nevermind players with a bit of bottle and fight in them. 

There is no doubt Louis would have mentioned this often, and the need to grow football on the island in order to even think about competing with such teams, nevermind beating them. 

If he did mention it, it didn't help him keep his job, as his contract wasn't renewed and Taiwan's youth team coach Vom Ca-nhum has been put in charge for the final three games of qualifying but is unlikely to be able to stop them from falling into the pre-qualifying playoff round for the Asian Cup qualifiers.

These are matches countries need to win for the opportunity to play in qualifying for the 2023 Asian Cup. Lose that two-legged fixture and you're out of the competition before qualifying has even begun. 

Taiwan is desperate to get a World Cup qualifying win, but their main focus should really be on getting into the group stages of the Asian Cup qualifying at this point. 

They'll be one of the lowest seeds but could still have a chance to qualify for the Asian Cup finals if they find their belief in themselves again. If they fail to be able to believe in themselves however, they will be out of the Asian Cup before most teams qualifying campaign begins.

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