THE last time the Philippines tasted a win was in November last year against Timor-Leste during the AFF Suzuki Cup group stage in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The team has since drawn three games and lost seven. If there’s any consolation, four of these losses were from higher ranked teams.

On Thursday night, Sept. 5, 2019, the Azkals will face yet another higher-ranked team, Syria, as the two kick off their second round World Cup Qualifiers campaign at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.

The good news is Syria isn’t looking too good, either.

The Middle Eastern country is coming off a string of poor results: of 15 matches it played this year, Syria lost eight, drew five, and won two.

Take note as well that Syria has just come off a lackluster, winless campaign in the 2019 West Asian Football Federation Championship last month. Who knows what toll four grueling matches would have taken on the team.

Comparing results won’t suffice in gauging how the Azkals would fare in Panaad this Thursday, but having an off-form opponent in Syria would certainly increase the Philippines chances of winning.

Granted, of course, that a much-improved version of the Azkals with a more potent style of play shows up, one that plugs its defensive holes, creates chances and actually scores goals.

But then it could also boil down to which team wants to win the opener more badly: the Azkals of coaches Scott Cooper and Goran Milojevic or the Qasioun Eagles of Fajr Ibrahim?

The Azkals need to win this match, but so do Syria.

The ever-energetic crowd in Panaad could spell the difference in giving the Azkals more reason to get its World Cup qualifying campaign off on the right foot.

It’s only been close to a year since the Azkals last won in this historic stadium, which was at Singapore’s expense during the Suzuki Cup and days before its defeat of Timor, and yet those wins now feel like a distant memory.

On Thursday, Sept. 5, sounds just right for the Azkals to remind themselves and their loyal fans what winning feels like.