Azkals drawn with two powerhouses
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - July 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Azkals will have to go through powerhouses Syria and China as well as familiar teams Maldives and Guam as they bid to go deeper into the qualifying event of the 2023 FIFA World Cup and earn a second trip to the AFC Asian Cup.

The Pinoy booters found themselves in Group A after yesterday’s draw for second round of the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur, drawing an unfamiliar opponent (Syria), a regular tormentor (China) and two sides they’ve beaten before (Maldives and Guam) in their quest to make the 12-team cut for the next round.

The Azkals will need to win the group or land in the four best-placed group runners-up to move forward to the third round of the 2023 WC qualifiers and punch a ticket to the 2022 Asian Cup.

This will be first time for Phl XI to play the Syrians since the qualifiers for the 2002 WC qualifiers, with the pre-Azkals squad absorbing a 0-12 and 1-5 beating.

The Chinese have got the Filipinos’ number as well and emerged victorious in their three meetings over the last two years, 8-1 in a 2017 friendly, 3-0 at the 2019 Asian Cup, and 2-0 in another friendly last month.

The Azkals enjoy the edge against Maldives, beating the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup semis in added extra time, 3-2, and in their 2015 friendly in Manila, 2-0. Ditto with Guam, whom the Phl footballers defeated twice in 2012, 3-0 in Bacolod and 1-0 in Manila.

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