30 days until the Azkals’ return in WCQ

The 30-day countdown for the Azkals’ return to competitive play begins on Tuesday.

The Azkals’ three crunch matches in the joint qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup will be played starting June 3, 2021.

When and where will the Azkals play their World Cup Qualifiers?

The Asian Football Confederation has confirmed that China will host the remaining matches of Group A. The Suzhou Sports Center Stadium and the Suzhou Olympic Center Stadium will be the match venues.

The fixture lists is as follows:

June 3, 2021 – Philippines vs. Guam
June 9, 2021 – China PR vs. Philippines
June 15, 2021 – Philippines vs. Maldives

The Philippines began the qualifiers with a 2-5 defeat to Syria last September 5, 2019 at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City. Javier Patiño gave the Philippines an early lead, but Syria fired five unanswered goals before Mike Ott salvaged a late consolation for the Azkals.

The Azkals travelled to Guam to play the Matao five days later, claiming a 4-1 win. Four players were on the scoresheet as Angel Guirado, Patrick Reichelt, Stephan Schrock, and Patrick Strauss all found the back of the net to give the Philippines their first three points.

The Philippines faced a familiar foe in China PR in Bacolod in October 2019. Having lost their last three matches against the Chinese side in recent years, the Azkals put up a brave stand to salvage a point against the favorites.

The goalless draw at Panaad showed the improvement made by the team.

The two fixtures remaining fixtures in 2019 saw the Azkals defeat the Maldives, 2-1, in Male and a 0-1 loss to Syria in Dubai.

The three remaining matches were supposed to be played in 2020, but the AFC reset the competition this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Philippines’ best chance at qualifying for the third round is to finish as one of the four best second placed teams. As things stand, the Philippines are in third place in Group A with two wins, one draw, and two losses, behind only to China PR on goal difference.

Syria is already set to top the group with five wins out of five, while Maldives and Guam are still looking to cause some surprises.

Should the Philippines qualify, they will split into two groups of six teams each with the top two teams advancing to the FIFA World Cup and the two third-placed teams in contention in the play-off. Additionally they will also qualify for the Asian Cup for the second time in history.