A familiar foe is on the horizon for the Philippine Men’s National Football Team in its quest to join the world’s biggest football competition for the very first time.
In a draw held today in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Philippines is set to face off against the People’s Republic of China in Group A of the second round of the joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifying tournament.
The Azkals and their Chinese counterparts, who are ranked 73 in the world, competed in a one-sided contest in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup group stage as the latter won 3-0 and were powered by a brace from Espanyol forward Wu Lei.
The two nations then faced off in a friendly match last June 7, 2019, at the Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou, China, which was won by the home side with a 2-0 scoreline courtesy of goals from Wu Xi and Zhang Xizhe.
Aside from China, Syria (85), Maldives (151), and Guam (190) wrap up the Philippines’ other opponents in Group A.
The Philippines needs to finish top of the group in order to move on to the next qualification phase of the World Cup.
A second-placed standing will also allow the Filipinos to advance but it must be one of the four best runners-up for that to happen. Both instances, however, will secure an outright berth in the Asian Cup.
Failure to finish in the top two will relegate the Philippines into the third qualification round of the Asian Cup.
The Philippines shall start its campaign this September with the historic Panaad Stadium in Bacolod reported being the country’s main venue in the competition.
In the same qualification stage of the previous World Cup, the Philippines finished at third place in Group H, which was highlighted with a dramatic win over North Korea in the final matchday.