Can the Azkals qualify for the World Cup?
This was one of the questions that On The Ball Report host Peter Irvine threw at me on his football program which I guested in recently.
Peter has a knack for firing questions that seem to come from unexpected angles, and this one about the Azkals’ World Cup chances caught me flatfooted, almost.
“Maybe in 2050,” I said. “It’s a good target.”
By good I meant realistic.
Peter’s precise follow-up question tackled the chances of the Philippine Women’s National Football Team qualifying for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup.
Not in the coming World Cup, I said, but maybe in the next one, in 2027.
The Philippine Malditas have climbed to 65th in the most recent Fifa Rankings, their highest ever.
The 2023 World Cup will now host 32 teams, expanded from 24 participants of previous tournaments.
If the format stays the same for 2027, five of the 32 teams, plus co-hosts Australia will come from the Asian Football Confederation.
Now here’s where it gets really interesting: the Malditas are now the 11th best team in Asia, just behind the top 10: Australia, Japan, China PR, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Uzbekistan, Myanmar and India.
If the Malditas continue to improve at this rate, I am confident they can break into Asia’s top 10 and beat the likes of emerging Asian powerhouses Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar within the next six years.
Doing so will give our girls a realistic chance to snare one of the five AFC slots in the 2027 Women’s World Cup.
As for the Men’s National Football Team, which is ranked 124th in the world and 23rd in Asia, their chances are far more daunting and complicated.
Even as the tournament will now be expanded to 48 teams in 2026 from 32, traditional powerhouses like Japan, Iran, Korea, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Syria and China will remain favorites to snare the AFC slots that have been doubled to eight, with rapidly improving Vietnam as dark horses.
I’m a huge fan of the Azkals, but the team has more doable goals ahead such as finally breaking into the top 100 Fifa Rankings, consistently qualifying for the Asian Cup and finally winning the Asean Football Championship within the decade.