Azkals fall to 4th spot, face must-win game vs North Korea
Atmosphere at Bunyodkor Stadium earlier was just electric. pic.twitter.com/YJ1fs8QS1B
— Cedelf P. Tupas (@cedelfpt) March 24, 2016ADVERTISEMENT
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan—The Philippines’ 0-1 defeat to Uzbekistan Thursday night could have huge repercussions in its bid to reach the third round of Asian Cup Qualifying.
With Bahrain whipping Yemen, 3-0, in Manama to improve to nine points, the Azkals dropped to fourth spot in Group H and the possibility of falling into a playoff for a spot in the third round of qualifying looms with another defeat to North Korea on Tuesday.
The Azkals turned their focus on nailing an Asian Cup berth, after the 0-1 home loss to Yemen last November eliminated them from contention for a place in the third round of World Cup Qualifying (WCQ).
But a win by the Azkals, who have seven points on two wins and a draw, on the last day of the group stage and a Bahrain loss to Uzbekistan will give the Filipinos third spot.
Uzbekistan has 18 points and can wrap up top seed and an outright berth to the next round of WCQ with a win over Bahrain here on Tuesday, while North Korea is in a strong position to become one of the four best second placers from among the eight groups with 16 points.
North Korea has plenty to play for in Manila as it also has a chance to top the group if Bahrain beats Uzbekistan.
The Azkals are coming home convinced that they rounded out what has been a disappointing WCQ campaign with a victory and finish with 10 points.
The confidence stems from their battling performance against a formidable Uzbek side, which struggled to break down the resilient Filipinos at Bunyodkor Stadium.
“I think we can take a lot of positives from this game and push on in Manila,” said midfielder Luke Woodland.
Even if they finish fourth, the Azkals can still avoid the playoff if they end up as one of the four best fourth-placed teams from among the eight groups.
The remaining 12 teams – eight last-placed sides and the four worst fourth-placed squads – will go through two rounds of home-and-away playoffs with the four survivors advancing to the 24-team third round of Asian Cup Qualifying.
Only 12 teams from the 24 that advanced to third round qualifying will reach the main tournament.
The Asian Cup in 2019 in the United Arab Emirates has been expanded to 24 teams, eight more than previous editions. The 12 teams that qualified for the third round of World Cup Qualifying also clinched outright berths to the Asian Cup.
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