16 April 2015

Long travel time a concern for Azkals in qualifiers for 2018 Fifa World Cup

WHILE ruing the missed chance of being in a more favorable group, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) believes the national men’s team is capable of pulling off surprises in the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers starting this June.
The Azkals have been drawn in an unpredictable Group H with Uzbekistan, Bahrain, North Korea, and Yemen.
“I think we could’ve gotten a better draw,” PFF president Nonong Araneta said on Wednesday night during intermission of the Global FC-Yadanarbon Asian Football Confederation Cup match at the Philippine Stadium.
Araneta feels the Filipino booters would’ve had an easier traveling experience if they were bracketed in Group F composed of fellow Southeast Asian nations Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, another neighbor in Chinese Tapei, along with Middle East power Iraq.
“Ang sa akin lang 'yung distance nung game eh,” the PFF chief said, noting the Azkals will have two away matches in a span of just six days, on October 8 in Pyongyang then five days later in Bahrain.
“Yun ang medyo mabigat para sa team,” Araneta continued. “We’re looking for the shortest possible connecting flight para at least they can be in Bahrain right away.”
There are no direct flights to Bahrain and to Uzbekistan, the top-ranked nation in the group at 73rd, which, Araneta said, is 13 hours away from the Philippines via plane.
Playing in war-torn Yemen is also improbable, according to Araneta, who bared the away match could be played in a neutral ground in Bahrain.
The Azkals start their campaign with a home match against Bahrain on June 11 tentatively at the Philippine Stadium, with all their matches played in Fifa match days, ending in March next year.
“Pero wala tayo magawa,” Araneta said. “That’s water under the bridge. We just have to do our own preparation.”
“We just have to make sure all the players are available,” the former national team standout added as the Azkals are expecting new faces to join the squad in half-Australian midfielder Iain Ramsay, half-Austrian defender Stephen Palla, and half-British teenager Luke Woodland, as well as the return of star Stephan Schrock.
“If all our players are available, then we have a good chance of making some upsets there,” Araneta said, adding the PFF is trying to arrange a friendly possibly against Vietnam next month.



  1. This would be a great addition on our Defense and Midfield. If they could also include a better Finisher if Patino is no longer interested in playing. I think the Azkals would be a force to reckon with.

    1. Coach dooley is getting tired of calling up patiño when the player himself isn't committed to play for the country
      I'm sure he'll snub the Bahrain game in Manila and the away game vs Yemen due to "club commitments"
      His excuses of snubbing call of National duty
      2013 in buriram utd: "injured" Excuse when he scored 53 goals in 35 games
      2014 in buriram utd: "back problems" excuse snubbing both challenge cup and suzuki cup
      2015 in henan jiaye: "club commitments" in fifa international match days when they are to be released mandatorily by clubs
      We will be waiting for his excuses in 2016

  2. They are already making excuses DUH as if other teams would not go through same long travels

    1. There is one group with 3 SEA teams.

  3. From my understanding North Korea hasn't been hosting FIFA matches For a long time now
    They got banned a couple of times due to uncontrollable crowd riots
    North Korea home matches might be played in Neutral venue in Beijing

    1. Nah, North Korea hosted all their home matches in their capital city Pyongyang during former World Cup qualifications, with only exception being matches vs South Korea, which were usually played in China because North Korea refused to play South Korean anthem and fly its flag. Other than that, North Korea has no problem with hosting FIFA matches, and you might confused with Myanmar on the crowd riot issue.

  4. Last 2005 against Iran in Pyongyang
    Fan riot happened because North Korea lost

    1. Well didn't know about that, but anyway it's long ago and as said above, they played their home matches in Pyongyang during 2010, 2014 WC qualification so we will go there for sure.

    2. Doesn't matter. Hope this time azkals quality is now par against chollima
      If india can win against them and chinese taipei managed to get a nil-nil draw against them last november 2014, there is a chance for azkals

    3. Not sure what NoKor-India match you're talking about (Most recent match between the two based on FIFA homepage was 2012 Challenge Cup where NoKor defeated India 4-0) and forget about NoKor-Chinese Taipei match last year, which was a meaningless game after NoKor confirmed top place in the tournament.

      That said, it's true that NoKor is not as strong as they were around the time they qualified for the 2010 World Cup, and it was clearly shown in the recent Asian Cup where they lost all 3 games against China, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. I'd say their quality at the moment is pretty much similar level with Thailand, which basically is still better than us, but with all those planned reinforcements such as Palla, Ramsay, Woodland and returning Schrock, i believe we can fight them with 50/50 chance.

    4. India beat North Korea in 2008 challenge cup semifinals 1-nil, fluke or not, you decide
      North Korea is Sometimes weak, sometimes too strong like Lebanon or Thailand. All 3 are AFC's giant-slayers, no one knows when they can snatch a win against a higher-quality opponent
      ...azkals Against NoKor, i hope they learned their lesson when they lost against the same team back in 2012

    5. Seems no further discussion is needed here but just a correction, it was Tajikistan not India who defeated NoKor in 2008 Challenge Cup semifinals.