Mongolia Learns First 2022 World Cup Qualification Opponent
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Today Mongolia learned that it will face Brunei in the First Round of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification. The opponents were decided by a draw held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia earlier today, with Mongolia being placed in Pot A because the team's April 2019 FIFA ranking was in the top 6 of the 12 teams.
Mongolia will start its campaign at home in Ulaanbaatar on 6 June before traveling to Brunei to face the opponents again five days later. Total goal tally across the two matches will be used to determine who will meet the top 34 AFC teams in a group stage format beginning in September 2019.
The First and Second Round matches will also be used as part of 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualification.
As far as history between the two teams, there is none. They have not met before at the senior international level. In a rare situation for Mongolia entering a major tournament they will be the higher ranked team with a current FIFA ranking of 187 to Brunei at 194.
The two nations were set to meet at the under-23 level in the 2017 Aceh World Solidarity Tsunami Cup in Indonesia but the match was cancelled because of weather and inconsequential nature of the final match.
Mongolia has never advanced past the first round of World Cup qualification since first entering the competition for the 2002 edition. The team has come close twice, narrowly losing out to Myanmar 1-2 for the 2014 tournament. Four years later, Mongolia should have advanced after Timor-Leste fielded nine ineligible players and were ultimately disqualified but the offense was discovered too late and the tiny republic's 5-1 scoreline stood going in to the Second Round.
Likewise, Brunei has also never advanced beyond the initial qualifying stage.
While Mongolia has been seeing more players gaining experience abroad in recent years, so too has Brunei seen a slight increase in legionnaires.
28-year-old striker Adi Said has recently joined UiTM FC of the Malaysian Premier League after previously playing exclusively in the domestic league. However, by far the biggest footballing story to EVER come out of Brunei is the presence of Faiq Bolkiah on the Leicester City roster. Known as the "World's Richest Footballer" with a networth of reportedly over 15 billion USD and status as the nephew of the Sultan of Brunei.
Despite previously being on the books at Arsenal, Chelsea, and Southampton, he's never made a league appearance for the clubs.
With its strongest showing to date in 2019 EAFF Championship qualification, Mongolia will hope to continue its recent progress. In Brunei the team may have found its best chance at victory and another historic run.