Ultimately, a familiar foe caused the Philippine Azkals’ heartbreak in the resumption of their joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign at the Sharjah Stadium in the UAE.
Needing a win to keep their faint World Cup hopes alive, the Filipinos started well in the opening period. But they once again fell at the hands of Espanyol forward Wu Lei.
Lei previously scored a brace during both teams’ encounter in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
“I think for six starters who haven’t played in nine months of competitive football, just having 10 trainings in the leg, we did very well in the first half,” opined Philippines captain Stephan Schrock after the country lost 0-2 against China.
Scott Cooper’s men managed to contain China in the first 45 minutes. Injuries to Michael Kempter and Kenshiro Daniels, though, slowly turned the tide in favor of the Chinese. It was in the second half when everything went south.
The Chinese dominated the Azkals at the start of the period. Filipino goalkeeper Bernd Schipmann then fouled Wu Lei in the box.
The 29-year-old converted the spot-kick in the 56th minute. His side’s lead doubled when Wu Xinghan converted from close range in the 65h minute.
“I think we followed the game plan, and I think in the first half, we had the better chances. But the penalty (in the second half) threw us off, and then the second goal — I think it was eight or nine minutes later… Obviously we were not happy,” added Schrock.
“And then we were not efficient physically and also not tactically in the preparation for counter or bringing China in danger anymore.”
With the result, the Azkals remain in third place with seven points in Group A, behind China at 13 and Syria at 21.
There is still much for Schrock and his teammates to play for when they face Guam on June 11 at 10:00 PM; and Maldives on June 15 at 10:00 PM. They look to secure 3rd place in the group and enter the next qualification phase of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.