Azkals seek to beat Palestine for hassle-free ticket to Asian Cup

THE Philippine Azkals go all out against Palestine on Tuesday at the MFF Stadium in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia with a coveted ticket to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup (AC) on the line.

The Azkals, with four points on a win and a draw, can overtake the Palestinians (six points on two victories) in the race for Group B top honors and a hassle-free entry into the Continental tilt with a win in the 12:30 p.m. duel.

“It’s going to be another final (must-win game) for us,” Philippine coach Thomas Dooley said.

“We got four points and we want to qualify and we have it in our hands. So we’ll fight 90 minutes against Palestine and we’ll see how that goes,” he added.

While a win guarantees a return trip to the AC as one of six group winners, a different result can complicate things and worse, turn out catastrophic.

A draw with Palestine gives the Filipinos five points at the end of the qualifiers and they could only hope it would be enough to land them in the five best second-placers across the six groups.

At press time, the Azkals rank fourth behind six-pointers Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, and India. Malaysia (three points) is in fifth followed by No. 6 Indonesia (three points).

If the Philippines loses to Palestine, it gets stuck at four points, its bid to make the cut hugely dependent on the results of the other matches.

The Azkals, who opened the final round of the qualifiers with a 0-0 stalemate with Yemen, kept their hopes alive after scoring a 1-0 win over Mongolia on Gerrit Holtmann’s clinical stoppage-time strike last Saturday. — Olmin Leyba