Will Taiwan Football Improve in the Upcoming FIFA 2022 World Cup Qualifications?

Taiwanese Men’s Football Team, perhaps internationally known as the Chinese Taipei National Football Team, faced an awkward situation in the World Cup 2018 qualification, and perhaps another storm is coming in 2022 qualification games……

Back in 2015, Taiwanese FIFA World Ranking was so bad (Internationally ranked 182, 39th in Asia) that our team has to play from the qualification’s very first round play-off. Playing the home game against Brunei, the Taiwanese unbelievably lost 1–0 to the Tebuans (The nickname of Brunei Darussalam national football team), due to a mistake made by the goalkeeper Chiu Yu-hung (邱育宏). However, the Taiwanese made an awesome comeback and won 2–0 at Brunei. Though the Taiwanese football fans weren’t happy about the performance, the men’s national team from this small island qualified the second round of the qualification anyway. Back then, no one would know that the darkest age of Taiwanese football was just about to start……

A disappointing game against Brunie at Kaohsiung (Photo credit to CTFA Official Facebook)

The Taiwanese was never expected to qualify for the next round but expected to have a better result in the second round. Taiwan was divided into team F with Thailand, Vietnam, Iraq, and Indonesia (However, Indonesia was disqualified for its governmental interference). Not to mention the games against one of the best Asian team like Iraq, Taiwan even could not manage to have some acceptable performance against Vietnam or Thailand. Moreover, scams were exposed during the tournament: When the European football star of the Taiwanese squad, Xavier Chen(陳昌源), was flying from Belgium to Vietnam to play the away game, the Chinese Taipei Football Association(CTFA) refused to pay the flight tickets beforehand. Afterwards, CTFA first explained that they were only willing to pay for the players whose flight started from Taiwan, and later clarified that once they got the flight receipt, they will pay Xavier for sure. However, Due to the incredibly stupid move from CTFA, Xavier didn’t play the rest of the world cup qualifications and Taiwan lost all of them.

Vamos Sports had Xavier interviewed from 1:16 of this video (All copyrights owned by Vamos Sports)
Wen Chih-Hao, an awesome midfielder who can use both feet (Photo credit to CTFA Official Facebook)

After the disappointing period of the World Cup 2018 era, AFC Asian Cup Qualification came to the rescue for Taiwanese football. Due to the participating team number was raised to 24, Taiwan had a chance to squeeze themselves into the road to UAE. During those crucial games of Asian Cup, though Taiwanese were still having awful head coaches like Toshiaki Ima, Kazuo Kuroda and Gary White, the players were able to win big games anyway: Xavier Chen was back in the squad. Pan Wen-Chieh(潘文傑), as well as Wen Chih-Hao(溫智豪), were making huge improvements and contributed so much on the field. Tim Chow(周定洋), a midfielder whose grandfather has Taiwanese nationality and now playing for Henan Jianye(河南建業), along with Will Donkin(沈子貴), an 18-year-old popular youth player from Crystal Palace U18 Professional Development League, both joined the national team after Xavier announced his retirement. Though Taiwanese came up short for just one point from getting the ticket to AFC Asian Cup, everything looked bright and seemed that football was getting attention once again in this tropical island then.

(If you still think Gary White was the saviour of Taiwanese Football and is still a great football coach, please go check out how Tokyo Verdy FC is playing now under his guide.)

Xavier Chen’s last home game for Taiwan (Photo credit to 足巢 Football Home)

Taiwanese football is tagged with negative labels once again. For example, Tseng Shu-O(曾淑娥), a Taiwanese professional football player who played across the world, had made an announcement on May 17th that a few staff from CTFA accused her of unwilling to train with the national team, asking for better flight seats, and Taking away the game fee without playing a game for Taiwan. She later claimed that all the accusations and rumours were nonsense. Furthermore, Tseng hurt her hip joint during the national team games and of course her professional club wasn’t pleased about it. Speaking the truth, Tseng was possibly playing the highest level of football among all Taiwanese team players, but CTFA didn’t treat her like a national team player deserved.

Tseng Shu-O was back in the national team (Photo credit to CTFA Official Facebook)

Now FIFA 2022 world cup qualifications are coming really soon and the Taiwanese football team will have another shot to show the world, or at least Asia how much the team has improved for the past four years. because of their ages, some national team main players like Chen Po-Liang(陳柏良, 31 years old), Yaki Yen(殷亞吉, 30 years old), and Onur Dogan(朱恩樂, 31 years old) might face their career turning points. If the Taiwanese new football generation like the early twenties doesn’t improve as we have hoped, this time might be Taiwanese Football Team’s biggest opportunity to shock the Asian football world when those key players are not too old.

18-year-old Will Donkin in the new Taiwan football kit (Photo credit to CTFA Official Facebook)

Will Taiwan Improve in the Upcoming FIFA 2022 World Cup Qualifications? I think it will be harder than the head coach, Louis Lancaster, expected it will be. Comparing to 2015’s squad, Taiwan does improve some points without doubts. Though the best defender Xavier Chen retired, with Hung Tzu-Kuei(洪子貴) making the left back position which Taiwan has been lacking, Chen Hao-Wei(陳浩瑋) now able to control his anger, Wang Ruei(王睿) gaining experience from Hong Kong Premier League, Taiwan still get some progress during these years.

Forward Chen Chao-An(陳昭安) still has a chance to play overseas (Photo credit to CTFA Official Facebook)

In conclusion, Taiwan has improved, but how much did the rest of the Asian teams have?

Like Vietnam, they had some dramatic changes. Vietnam made it to the quarter-finals in AFC Asian Cup 2019 and into the finals of 2018 AFC U-23 Championship. Or like Thailand, their main scorer, Teerasil Dangda, might meet his early thirty and can’t run that fast, but players like “Thailand Messi” Chanathip Songkrasin gaining experience and fame in Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, Kawin Thamsatchanan playing at Belgium, and Thitiphan Puangchan learning at Oita Trinita, Thailand War Elephants were really good and now they turn into beasts.

Taiwanese players and coach Louis Lancaster have built confidence over the wins against those smaller teams, but if they face another struggling situation as they did in 2015, the attention from media, the football fans, and their self-confidence might turn into ashes in the blink of an eye.

Taiwanese women’s football team plays much better than men’s, but sadly they have less attention than men’s (Photo credit to CTFA Official Facebook)

Writer for #SportsVision | Multimedia Journalist for #ChelseaFC soccer school Taiwan