The Philippine Azkals got a bye in World Cup qualifying action Tuesday, but they’ll be keeping an eye on a couple of games that will impact their own campaign.
Group H leader North Korea hosts Bahrain in Pyongyang, while Uzbekistan clashes with Yemen in Doha, Qatar, with both matches equally crucial in deciding which teams will make the next round of World Cup qualifying.
The Azkals are in third, stuck at seven points from five matches so far, following their shocking 0-1 loss to underdog Yemen last Thursday at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
But while their fate is no longer in their hands as far as qualifying for the third round of WCQ is concerned, the Filipinos can still gain an outright berth in the third round of Asian Cup qualifying if they finish third in the group.
Victories by North Korea and Uzbekistan on Tuesday will shut the door on the Azkals in the next round of World Cup Qualifying.
It will also enhance the Azkals’ chances of keeping third spot with Bahrain breathing down the Azkals’ necks at fourth with six points and Yemen in fifth with just three points.
“We have to go back to our earlier expectation which is to make the Asian Cup in 2019,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami after the loss to Yemen.
The Asian Cup, which will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates, has been expanded from 16 to 24 teams.
The Azkals posted wins against Bahrain (2-1) and Yemen (2-0), held North Korea to a nil-nil standoff and lost to Uzbekistan (4-1) in the first-round matches.