Azkals face tall odds against North Korea in World Cup qualifier in Pyongyang
Stephan Schrock will be leading the charge for the Azkals. Jaime Campos

A WEARY Philippine men’s football team tries to defy huge odds this time as is continues its World Cup Qualifying campaign against North Korea on Thursday afternoon at Kim Il-Sung Stadium in Pyongyang.

Eager to atone for their worst defeat in recent memory, a 5-1 beating at the hands of 76th-ranked Uzbekistan last month at home, the Azkals are installed as heavy underdogs anew against North Koreans on their home turf.

Kickoff is set at 3:30 p.m.

The 129th-ranked Koreans are leading Group H with nine points after winning their first three matches, while the Filipino booters, who dropped nine places to 134th in the October world rankings, are running third behind Uzbekistan on goal difference.

The top team to emerge in the group, as well as the four best second placers from the eight groups, will advance to the third round.

“Our goal is still to be in second place and find out if we can be in the four best second-placers,” Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said.

Dooley, whose team bucked the long travel to the North Korean capital city where they trained for only two days, hopes the Azkals will be more mindful not to commit early defensive lapses like the ones they had against the Uzbeks.

“We have to be more defensive minded,” the German-American mentor said.

Skipper Phil Younghusband and overseas-based standouts led by Stephan Schrock will be leading the Azkals, who, however, will miss prolific Filipino-Spanish striker Javier Patiño.

Patino sustained a hamstring injury in the Chinese Super League while playing for Henan Jianye.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos