THE Philippine Azkals face Guam on Friday night, looking to bounce back from their loss to China in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup second round of qualification at the Sharjah Stadium in United Arab Emirates.
The Azkals are coming off a 0-2 defeat against China on Tuesday for their fixture against Guam at 7 p.m. (10 p.m. Manila time) to be aired live on ONE Sports.
Mathematically, the Azkals still have a very slim chance of advancing to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers which will gain the team an outright berth in the Asian Cup. The national squad nevertheless aims to finish the best way possible in their two remaining matches.
The Philippines is currently in third place with seven points behind China, which now has 13 points after the victory over the Azkals.
Azkals coach Scott Cooper was relatively satisfied with the effort of the team, considering the obstacles they had to go through before the match. One bright spot for the Azkals was defender Jefferson Tabinas, who showed his wares at the back against the formidable China frontline.
“While we know we played a solid performance against China, we are still bitterly disappointed to lose the game,” Cooper said. “I felt that we should have come in at halftime leading that game. I think up until the first goal, we showed that we can control China in terms of limiting the chances and then the game slipped away from us when the second goal came.”
“We also have to deal with China at full strength. They have naturalized players there, and we have many injuries… All in all, considering everything that we have to deal with and the fact that the first game should not have been China, we are okay with the performance. We are not okay with the result. No one can be okay with a loss,” Cooper added.
One of the goals of the Azkals is to surpass their best finish in the World Cup qualifiers when it placed third with 10 points during the 2018 competition.
“We are now seven [points] with two left. Hopefully, we can equal, if not, surpass that and then build on what is a promising-looking future with young players,” said Cooper.
The Azkals will have a psychological advantage after they won over Guam on the road, 4-1, in their previous match in the qualifiers last September 10, 2019.
Guam lost to Group A leader Syria, 4-0, last Tuesday.
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