Philippine Azkals host North Korea in must-win homestand
Santino Honasan on Mar 29, 2016 10:50 AM
Back from a one game suspension, Misagh Bahadoran (9) will look to lead the Philippine Azkals to a home win against North Korea
Less than a week removed from a gallant stand against a tough Uzbekistan team in Tashkent, the Philippine Azkals return to the pitch, but this time in front of a home crowd as they host North Korea, Tuesday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
Coming off a heartbreaking 0-1 loss to group leaders Uzbekistan that saw the Pinoy side play some of the best defense and show some of the biggest heart, the Azkals face another tough challenge in second-seeded North Korea.
In first meeting in Pyongyang last October, the Philippines managed to hold the home team to an impressive scoreless draw, being the first team to gain such a result against the then-group leaders.
Things may prove to be different this time around, however, as the Azkals boast a different lineup, without the services of key players in Phil Younghusband, Stephan Schrock and Stephan Palla due to injury, while Jerry Lucena and Paul Mulders have both retired from international competition. All five players saw action during the first Azkals-North Korea matchup.
Currently, North Korea holds the second seed with five wins, one draw, and one loss for 16 points. A win over the Philippines and an Uzbekistan against Bahrain loss propels them back to the top spot and secures them a spot into the next round of the qualifiers.
While the Azkals have already been eliminated from the 2018 World Cup, they still have a chance at qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup. A win against North Korea and a Bahrain loss against Uzbekistan sends the Azkals into third place, meaning that they automatically gain entry into the third round of the 2019 Asian Cup Qualifiers.
Any other result means that the Philippines will finish the Group Stage of the World Cup Qualifiers at fourth place. If the Azkals are among the four best fourth-seeds, they will also automatically gain entry into the third round of the 2019 Asian Cup Qualifiers, otherwise, they head into the playoff round.
The Azkals have never made it into the AFC Asian Cup before, but they have a really good chance of doing so this time around.
Aside from ending the Group Stage on a positive note, the Azkals would surely like to get a win at home as a farewell gift for veteran defender and acting skipper Juani Guirado, who announced his retirement from the national team Monday.
Support Pinoy football! Catch the Philippine Azkals as they take on North Korea LIVE on Tuesday, March 29 at 7:30 PM on ABS-CBN Sports+Action channel 23, ABS-CBN Sports+Action HD, and livestreaming on http://sports.abs-cbn.com/livestream/azkals