THE Philippine Azkals’ bid to advance into the next phase of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification suffered a setback after they fell to China, 2-0, on Monday night at the Sharjah Stadium.
The Azkals failed to sustain their promising performance in the first half, dropping their third defeat in six matches in the second round of the joint qualifiers for the World Cup and AFC Asian Cup.
Wu Lei, who scored two goals in their 7-0 win over Guam in their previous match, converted on a penalty in the 56th minute, and Wu Xinghan broke the match wide open with China’s second goal in the 65th.
China solidified its hold of second place in Group A following their fourth win and 13 points on the table.
By staying in third, the Philippines, which has seven points, is now on the brink of bowing out of contention for a spot in the Fifa World Cup. The top teams among the eight groups along with the best fourth second placers move to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers while also earning an automatic spot in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
In the crucial contest, the Azkals put the pressure on China in their first official match in 19 months, holding China scoreless in the first half. Mark Hartmann had two opportunities to knock in a goal including a chance in the 33rd but his header was deflected by China goalkeeper Yan Junling.
The Azkals conceded the first goal after goalkeeper Bernd Schipmann brought down Lei inside the box for a penalty kick which he completed. Nine minutes later, Xinghan’s left boot after a tight cross left the Azkals frustrated.
“In the first half, we had chances. The penalty threw us off,” said Azkals skipper Stephan Schrock.
Two Azkals players suffered injuries in the first half with Michael Kempter taken out of the match after a collision with a Chinese player, and Kenshiro Daniels was also replaced after favoring his right hamstring.
Jefferson Tabinas, one of the debutants for the Azkals in the match, made a good account of himself on defense, but still not enough to overcome the China onslaught in the second half.
The Azkals are now slated to face Guam on June 11 in their next outing.
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