The last time the Azkals played was on Nov. 19, 2019, a 2022 World Cup Qualifying match they lost 1-0 to Syria in Dubai.

That feels like a long time ago, those 18 months plus of inactivity, no thanks to the pandemic.

So the Azkals going back to competitive action this June is something every Filipino football fan should look forward to.

Right now, the Philippine Men’s National Team led by captain Stephan Schrock is in the middle of a training camp in Doha, Qatar.

The camp lasts until month end, after which the team will fly to Suzhou, China for the remaining Asian WCQ matches in Group A.

The Philippines is slated to play Guam on June 3, China on June 9, and the Maldives on June 15.

Having won all five of its matches, Syria has advanced to the WCQ third round and qualified outright for the 2023 Asian Cup.

China is currently in second place, but it is hard-pressed to earn decisive results, as only the top four runners-up from the Asian Football Confederation’s eight groups will advance to the third round.

China and the Philippines both have seven points apiece, but the hosts enjoy a huge goal difference to earn second place, while the Azkals settle for third.

The Philippines, however, has already played five matches, while China just four, which means the hosts have a game on hand.

With six points, the Maldives has a slim fighting chance, while Guam is out of the running with zero points in the table.

Despite the odds, the Philippines still has a chance of advancing to the next round should it win all three of its matches, and Guam, the Maldives and Syria do their best to spoil China’s party.

Granted that the Azkals do beat Guam, China and the Maldives, their fate might still hinge on the result between China and Syria on June 15, the same day the Philippines faces the Maldives.

Syria beat China 2-1 in their first encounter, but that was way back in November 2019 in Dubai.

Having qualified for the next round, would Syria be as determined to win against China this time around?