The third round of the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup continues on Tuesday. And there will be plenty of interest cast on Hanoi as the My Dinh National Stadium hosts a competitive international since before the COVID-19 pandemic back in November 2019.
Having already made history by getting this far in World Cup qualification for the first time ever, Vietnam will be gunning for more milestones but have a tough test on their hands against an Australia outfit widely regarded as one of the strongest contenders of Asia's 12 remaining hopefuls to reach Qatar 2022.
Both teams got their campaigns underway last Thursday in contrasting fashion, with Australia impressive in a 3-0 win over China PR, while Vietnam started brightly but ultimately fell to a 3-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia.
So what be expected from Tuesday's eagerly-anticipated encounter?
What went right last time out?
Joey Lynch on Australia: So comfortable was last week's win over China, it's hard to pinpoint one or two key factors behind the triumph for Australia -- defender Harry Souttar correct in his Friday summation that it "probably should have been a bit more".
Given the context of the Socceroos' previous, profligate forays into Asia, that coach Graham Arnold's team was able to convert their control of possession into actual goals was hugely important, as was their ability to stymie Chinese attempts to get out in transition.
The fluidity and pace of front three Adam Taggart, Awer Mabil and Martin Boyle served to both create chances for the Australians and drag their foes defence out of shape -- cutting down on those aforementioned moments in transition.
Gabriel Tan on Vietnam: The Vietnamese can certainly take heart from the manner in which they got off to a dream start, courtesy of Nguyen Quang Hai's superb 20-yard opener inside three minutes.
Their fast start gave a clear indication that will not be overawed coming up against some top-level opposition, which will be important as they will continue to be underdogs throughout the qualifiers.
While Saudi Arabia eventually wrested back control of the contest, it was also a positive that Vietnam did not completely buckle under pressure and still kept it to a respectable scoreline.
Any major concerns ahead of the game?
Joey Lynch on Australia: As is the case for any game that Australia's national teams play in Southeast Asia, how the Socceroos cope with the heat and humidity in Hanoi looms large -- most of the players arriving from European leagues and having played China at the air-conditioned Khalifa International Stadium.
Playing against the lowest-ranked side in their group and coming off a comfortable win, complacency will also need to be avoided.
Should Arnold wish to start him, the question of who makes way for Aaron Mooy and how he is incorporated into the midfield setup is a key question.
Gabriel Tan on Vietnam: In the previous stage, Park Hang-seo's charges benefitted from the fact that three of the four teams they came up against were fellow Southeast Asian outfits, meaning they largely did battle against opponents of similar physical stature.
The third stage of Asian qualifiers will however see them take on opposition who are who are far bigger and stronger, which has traditionally been a significant hurdle for most teams from the region. Just figuring out how to cope with the 1.98 metre Souttar at set pieces is likely to give Park headaches.
Also, while sheer adrenaline might have helped Vietnam see out their match against Saudi Arabia, it remains to be seen how prepared they are to cope with back-to-back matches in quick succession, given their players have not had much competitive action with the domestic V.League 1 on a hiatus since the start of May due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Who could be the difference maker?
Joey Lynch on Australia: Making his first appearance for the Socceroos since November 2019, Tom Rogic was superb against China: constantly looking to break lines with passes or runs, getting himself into dangerous areas without the ball and playing a key role in multiple goals.
Having seemingly found a new lease of his footballing life under Ange Postecoglou at Celtic, the 28-year-old looms as a potential game changer as Australia looks to unlock what will likely be a resolute defensive setup of Vietnam.
Gabriel Tan on Vietnam: A key aspect of the Vietnam game plan will revolve around stopping the physical threat posed by the Socceroos through players like Souttar, although that is likely to require a team effort.
Yet, if the Vietnamese are to continue taking steps forward on the international stage, they will have to start showing attacking endeavour against Asia's best teams -- and the one man that has proven he can deliver at the highest level is Quang Hai with his wand of a left foot.
What would a win mean?
Joey Lynch on Australia: On a surface level, the benefits of a win over Vietnam for the Socceroos are obvious: two wins from two ensuring they comfortably sit in Group B's automatic qualification slots coming out of the first international break. Crucially, it would also give them at least a three-point buffer over rivals Japan after their shock loss to Oman on the opening day.
While the days of Australian teams or their fans dismissing opponents like Vietnam as easybeats have long since passed, fixtures like Tuesday evening's encounter are games that a team like the Socceroos, which ostensibly carries itself one of the strongest in the confederation, should win.
An inability to get at least a point in Hanoi would open the door for potential doubts to emerge surrounding its efforts to qualify for a fifth straight World Cup.
Gabriel Tan on Vietnam: Similarly for Vietnam, the obvious reward of victory would be getting their campaign up and running following the opening-day defeat to Saudi Arabia.
Defeating opposition of Australia's ilk would also be a massive statement. Vietnam's rise over the past three years started with their run to the final at the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship when they saw off teams like Australia, Qatar and Iraq, but replicating those feats at senior level is a different proposition altogether.
Reaching the World Cup still looks a step to far at the moment but, as international football returns to Vietnamese shores after a lengthy hiatus, a positive result is likely to be wildly celebrated by their passionate fans, who have been starved off the chance to cheer on their heroes since the start of last year.
The view from the men in charge
Australia coach Graham Arnold: It's a World Cup qualifier and I'm going to put my best team out there that I feel is ready to go onto the pitch and perform at its best. Yes, it was a comprehensive win against China but I expect us to improve in every facet of the game.
[Vietnam] are a counter-attacking team. What's important for us is that our combination play is good, we get our cues right and we get players in the box to score goals.
Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo: This is a very powerful opponent. The players are all highly capable, have experience playing in the top leagues in the world, plus have good physique and are very good in the air.
The match is also the first game between Vietnam and Australia at [men's senior] national team level, so it's also very meaningful. We will do our best.