The Philippine Azkals aim to steal the second spot in their group and exact revenge against Syria in the second round of the 2022 Fédération International de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup qualifiers tonight at the Rashid Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The Azkals try to surpass idle China at No. 2 in Group A and avenge their previous loss to the unbeaten Qasioun Eagles at 6 p.m. (10 p.m. in Manila).
Off a 2-1 away victory over Maldives last Thursday night, the Philippines tied powerhouse China’s tally of seven points on an identical 2-1-1 win-draw-loss record but stayed at No. 3 with an inferior goal difference.
That road win saw veteran midfielder Iain Ramsay and young midfielder John Patrick Strauss score the goals in the second half before the Filipino booters weathered the Maldivians’ late rally.
A third triumph or a second draw will propel the PH XI past China in the standings halfway through the second round of the tournament that also serves as a joint qualifier for the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup.
The group winner and runner-up will secure their spots in the third round of the World Cup qualifying tilt, with the former also booking its ticket to the Asian Cup.
The FIFA-ranked No. 126 Azkals are also out to keep the momentum from their goalless draw with China and win over Maldives before the second round goes on a break and resumes in March next year.
But they had to overcome the No. 83 Syrians who were nothing but impressive in the qualifying tourney so far.
Syria downed the Philippines, 5-2, last September 5 at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod and from there racked up three victories including a 2-1 stunner over China just last week.
The Azkals will bank on Ramsay, Strauss and captain Stephan Shrock on the attack while leaning on goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, Alvaro Silva and Carli De Murga on defense in their bid to pull the rug from under Syria.
On the other hand, the Qasioun Eagles will rely on tournament’s top scorer Omar Al Soma, who has netted seven goals so far, midfielder Osama Omari and goalie Ibrahim Alma.