THE Philippine national men’s football team settled for a 1-1 draw with Maldives as it finished its campaign in the second round of the joint 2022 International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) World Cup and 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup Qualifiers early on Wednesday morning (Manila time) in the United Arab Emirates.
Veteran Angel Guirado put the Azkals ahead 19 minutes into the match at the Sharjah Stadium but they could not maintain the lead as six minutes later Maldives pulled even, care of Ali Fasir.
The two teams tried to score the marginal goal to claim all three points the rest of the way but were not successful in it, leaving them to share the spoils and get a point each for their efforts.
After their second-round qualifiers campaign, the Azkals ended up with 11 points from a record of 3-2-3, good for solo third place in Group A.
It was not enough to book the Philippines a spot in the next round of the qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but the Azkals earned a trip to the next phase of that of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup to be played later this year.
Maldives (2-1-5), for its part, finished at fourth place in the group with seven points.
Syria (7-0-1) and China (6-1-1) topped Group A and are heading to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers and booked their spots in the Asian Cup. Syria progressed for winning Group A and China as one of the best runners-up.
Guam, the other team in the grouping, wound up with no wins to show for in eight matches.
Meanwhile, apart from Syria and China in Group A, also progressing in the next round of the World Cup qualifiers are Australia (Group B), Iran (Group C), Saudi Arabia (Group D), Japan (Group E) and UAE (Group F), which finished number one in their respective groups.
Korea Republic, Oman, Iraq, Vietnam and Lebanon, progressed as among the best runner-up teams.
Among the teams which have advanced, Vietnam is the lone first-timer in the third round of the World Cup qualifiers. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo