The Philippine Azkals lost steam midway in the second half and fell prey to China, 0-2, in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers (WCQ) on Monday at the Sharjah Stadium in the United Arab Emirates.
Despite a solid first half that saw the Azkals’ defense led by newcomer Jefferson Tabinas frustrating China’s offense and Mark Hartmann getting two huge chances at goal, China made the proper adjustments at halftime and was rewarded with the victory through the help of keeper Yan Junling.
Wu Lei put China on the board after scoring a penalty against Bernd Schipmann in the 56th minute.
Wu Xinghan then eventually iced the match for China after slotting in a 65th-minute goal from a tough angle off a short cross from Zhang Xizhe.
With a huge gap in goal difference (plus-20 for China and minus-2 for the Azkals), China, which moved up to 13 points off four wins, one draw, and one loss, has essentially sealed the second spot in Group A.
However, China still needs to beat Maldives early Saturday Philippine time and group leader Syria on June 16 if it wants to join Syria in the third round of the WCQ.
Qualifying for the next WCQ round will also mean an automatic spot in the 2023 Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup.
The Azkals, on the other hand, must beat Guam on Friday and Maldives on June 15 to seal the third spot in Group A, which would mean qualification to the third round of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.*PNA