To be the best, you have to compete with the best
That is the lesson the Philippine Men’s National Football Team learned following the 2019 AFC Asian Cup draw on Friday night at the Armani Hotel in Dubai.
As a result of the latest FIFA World Rankings, the Philippines was situated in Pot 4 alongside the likes of North Korea, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, and Turkmenistan.
After a long wait, the Azkals were drawn in Group C with Kyrgyzstan, China, and South Korea. The Philippines has previously defeated Kyrgyzstan in two home and away friendlies two years ago, while they succumbed 1-8 against China in Guangzhou. The last official contest between South Korea and the Philippines was in 1980, where the former won 8-0.
“No easy group for a debutant in this competition. We will have to be in our best form, and for this the best preparation is needed,” commented long-time Azkals team manager Dan Palami.
Without a doubt, the Philippines will be the underdogs — at least on paper — compared to their opponents. Kyrgyzstan and China are ranked 75 and 73 in the FIFA World Rankings, while South Korea are head and shoulders above the trio at 61.
The top two teams of each group will advance to the knockout stage with the four best third-placed teams of the round.
Announced earlier in the ceremony was that a total of $15M is up for grabs. The champions win $5M, the runners-up get $3M, while participating teams earn $200K just by being there. Additionally, the new trophy for the competition was presented.
The competition will be held on January 5 to February 1, 2018. The Sharjah Stadium in Sharjah; the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium and Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain; the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium and Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai; and the Zayed Sports City Stadium, Al Jazira Stadium and Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi will be the venues for the tournament.