Azkals tackle tough qualifying stretch
Riding high on its impressive result against China just a few weeks back, the Philippines faces the most critical stretch of its Fifa World Cup qualifying bid this month as the Azkals travel to the Maldives and the United Arab Emirates for their matches in Group A.
The Azkals face Maldives on Nov. 14 at National Stadium in Male, before taking on Syria five days later at Rashid Stadium in Dubai.
Both matches will have plenty of weight on the Azkals’ aspirations of reaching the third round of the qualifying tournament that will also give them an outright spot to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in China.
In their last meeting in Male, the Philippines beat Maldives, 3-2, in extra time four years ago in the semifinals of the AFC Challenge Cup.
Azkals coach Scott Cooper said the draw against higher-ranked China should not just be a “one-off” for the Philippines.
Cooper is targeting a reversal against the Syrians, who defeated the Azkals, 5-2, at Panaad Stadium last September.
“We need to consistently produce those types of performances if we want to reach the next level in Asia,” Cooper told the Inquirer Sunday night.
“We can’t just rest on that result [against China]. These next two matches are a chance for us to continue to push our level up.”
The Azkals are sitting on third spot in Group A with four points, behind Syria, which has nine, and China, seven points.
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