Following the heartbreaking loss to China in the 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, the Philippine Azkals have two remaining matches they cannot afford to draw or lose.
The Azkals must have rued that 2-0 loss to China in a match that was extremely tight and competitive in the first half.
But credit to China’s relentless pressure, the formidable Philippine defense began to tire and was finally breached.
The first goal came off a Wu Lei penalty in the 57th minute, while the second, was a cool tap-in angle by Wu Xinghan off a precise cross eight minutes later.
The second half was all China’s.
With seven points in Group A, the Azkals’ chances of advancing to the third round are slim to none, even if they beat Guam (zero points) tomorrow, June 11, and the Maldives (six points) on June 15.
That’s because even if China (13 points) loses to the Maldives and unbeaten Group A leaders Syria (21 points), the Group A runners-up have an overwhelming goal difference over the third-place Azkals.
How overwhelming? 22 goals.
To be blunt about it, the Azkals’ 2022 World Cup dream is dead. For now.
That’s the bad news.
The good news?
Its 2023 AFC Asian Cup campaign remains promising.
In case you missed it, the ongoing WC qualifying tournament concurrently serves as the Asian Cup qualifiers.
The Asian Cup may not be as massive as the World Cup, obviously, but it is a huge and significant tournament, nevertheless.
Success in the Asian Cup is a natural progression towards football glory.
For sure, the Azkals team and management are now focusing on their Asian Cup campaign, which is why they must go all-out for wins against Guam and the Maldives to qualify outright for the third round.
Anything less could spell a double disaster.