by Olmin Leyba
MANILA, Philippines – Their chances to progress in the Fifa World Cup qualifiers may now be slim but that wouldn’t discourage the Philippine Azkals from giving it a shot.
“We’re not yet buried; we’re still alive and we keep on,” said a defiant midfielder Stephan Schrock.
The Azkals missed an opportunity to close in on leader North Korea (13 points) and second-running Uzbekistan (nine) as they bowed to Bahrain in Manama, 0-2, and remained stuck with seven points.
The Pinoy booters face the tough task of sweeping their last three games against Yemen (Nov. 12 at Rizal Memorial Stadium), Uzbekistan (Mar. 24 in Tashkent) and North Korea (Mar. 29 also in Manila) to get a chance for at least a second spot in the Group H.
“There’s still a lot to play for. We have three big games (in the WCQ) coming up, and the next one’s coming up in Manila, which we always look forward to, and there’s still the Asian Cup qualification (after the WCQ),” said veteran Rob Gier.
The group winners and the four best runners-up will advance to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers as well as the final round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Those that will be eliminated from the WCQ will contend in the next stage of the Asian Cup qualifiers.
Phl booters went their separate ways after the gruelling trip that had them play away games in Pyongyang and Manama in a period of 11 days. The Nationals are expected to return to camp next month in time for the Yemen outing at Rizal.
“We lick our wounds, everyone goes back home, think about this and we all make up when we come out again in three weeks and we really hit it hard again,” said Gier.