Azkals on guard to keep Asian Cup qualifier hope alive


The Philippine Azkals are facing a tough challenge of protecting their current position and enter the next round of qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup.

After Tuesday night’s games in Group H, which houses the Azkals together with North Korea, Bahrain, Uzbekistan and Yemen, the Philippines was officially booted out of contention for the next round of qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

However, the Philippines are still in a position to move on to the third round of the qualifiers of the Asian Cup because of their current rank in their group.

The Azkals are seeded No.3 in Group H with two wins, one draw and three losses with just two more games left to be played in March next year.

The top two formidable squads namely North Korea and Uzbekistan, whom the Azkals will have to face in the second round of the joint qualifiers, are set to enter the third round of eliminations for the world championship.

Meanwhile, the outright qualification for the next round of games for the 17th edition of the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates is still up for grabs as a slim margin separates the third and fourth seeds in Group H.

Third seed Philippines clings on a one-point advantage against Bahrain, who recently suffered a 2-0 loss against the North Koreans in Pyongyang last November 17.

“I am very disappointed about [our exit in the qualifiers for the World Cup]and the games we lost,” Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley told The Manila Times in a phone interview.

“There are small things that didn’t work out that could have made a huge step for the nation, the federation, the team and the players. There are a lot of little things we need to change to make [our game plan]work,” he added.

Dooley explained that their finish is one of the biggest problems that the team experienced in their recent games.

“If we don’t finish our chances 100 percent, we can’t win games. Teams are scoring 50 percent of their chances against us and we don’t finish 80-100 percent of ours, that is always a big problem,” he said.

The Azkals lost their chance of going into the next round of games for the World Cup after bowing to their group’s bottom-dwellers Yemen, 0-1, in a home match at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium last November 12.


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