By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Philippine national men’s football team finishes its campaign in the second round of the joint 2022 International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) World Cup and 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup Qualifiers bid on Tuesday in the United Arab Emirates.
The Azkals (3-1-3), currently third in Group A with 10 points and already assured of a spot in the next round of the Asian Cup, look to finish their bid on a high note in taking on Maldives at 11 p.m. (Manila time) at the Sharjah Stadium.
They strengthened their place in the next round of the qualifiers in the Asian Championship by defeating Guam, 3-0, on June 11.
Goals from Angel Guirado and Mark Hartmann, and an own goal by Guam, towed the nationals to the win, which served as a bounce back from their 0-2 loss to China three days prior.
Veteran Guirado broke through for the Azkals in the 12th minute.
The Philippines tried to add on to its lead, but the defense of Guam would hold up, leaving the Azkals to settle foro a 1-0 lead at the break.
In the second half, the Philippine footballers stayed aggressive in their attack and were rewarded with a “bonus” when Guam was assessed with an own goal when the header of Filipino-American Mark Winhoffer hit Guamanian player Marcus Lopez before finding the net in the 59th minute.
Mr. Hartmann scored in the 88th minute to complete the 3-0 victory.
While they took the win, Azkals coach Scott Cooper admitted the team could have played better and said he hopes in their next game, the players would be more consistent in their play.
“I think, maybe we gave ourselves more problems than Guam gave us, to be honest. We managed to finally score two goals from set-pieces and we’re pleased with the result, but the performance was patchy,” Mr. Cooper was quoted as saying by the official AFC website.
“For five or 10 minutes, we played well and then for another five or 10 minutes, we didn’t play so well. I’m not happy with that. We can’t have those periods where we’re in and out of trouble.”
The Azkals are now through to the third round of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers to be played from November this year to June 2022.
They, however, are out of the running for a spot in the third round of the World Cup qualifiers, which is now with Group A-leading Syria (7-0-0, 21 points) and possibly China (5-1-1, 16 points) as one of the best runners-up.
Maldives (2-0-5) is fourth in the grouping with six points while Guam (0-0-8) is last with no points to show for.
The Philippines-Maldives game will be shown live over One Sports and One Sports+.