The draw for the Asian World Cup qualifiers for the World Cup in Qatar have been announced — with a tough group for the Azkals.
The draw sees the Philippine national team paired with the relative minnows of Guam, and the Maldives, relatively strong local rivals the People’s Republic of China and — despite their war-torn status — regional powerhouses Syria.
To advance to the third round, the Azkals, currently managed by Scott Cooper of Ireland, will need to either win the group, or be one of the four best placed runners-up.
In the third round of Asian World Cup qualification the 12 teams are split into groups of six with the top two of each group qualifying automatically for the 2022 World Cup, while the two third placed teams enter a play-off for a place.
Should Cooper and his men be able to navigate qualifying, it would the first World Cup the Azkals have qualified for, despite being one of the oldest Football Associations in the world, having been formed back in 1913.
Perhaps the most interesting of draws occurred in Group H — North Korea and South Korea were placed together. This is not the first time the two teams have been placed together in qualifying matches, which due to the two sides not recognising each other — and technically still being at war — tend to be played in neutral venues, such as China.
Of course, relations between the two Korea’s have improved massively of late, a fact epitomised by President Trump recently stepping over the DMZ [Demilitarised Zone] into North Korea.
How and where these matches will be held is as of yet unconfirmed, but it will surely be interesting to see how the thaw in relations effects things.
The Azkals campaign starts on September 5 when they host Syria in Manila.
Round 2 draw results
Group A: China PR, Syria, Philippines, Maldives, Guam
Group B: Australia, Jordan, Chinese Taipei, Kuwait, Nepal
Group C: IR Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Cambodia
Group D: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Yemen, Singapore
Group E: Bangladesh, Oman, India, Afghanistan, Qatar
Group F: Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Mongolia
Group G: UAE, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia
Group H: Korea Republic, Lebanon, Korea DPR, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka
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