U23 Azkals play Singapore in AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers

THE U23 Azkals return to action in the 2022 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers on Thursday, taking on host Singapore at the Jalan Besar Stadium. — DARSHAN MEHTA INSTAGRAM/THE AZKALS FB PAGE

THE Philippine Under-23 (U23) men’s national football team returns to action in the 2022 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup Qualifiers on Thursday, taking on host Singapore at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Coming off a 0-3 loss at the hands of Korea Republic in their opening match on Monday, the U23 Azkals are looking to bounce back in their scheduled 8 p.m. contest against the home team to steady their bid for a spot in the Asian Cup, which is happening in Uzbekistan next year.

A second loss will strike a major blow to the Philippine side’s bid as qualification phase format only has the 11 group winners and the four best runners-up advancing to the final tournament.

The U23 Azkals held the Koreans to a nil-nil count at the halfway point of their match but were unable to contain their opponents in the second half once the latter got traction.

Defender Lee Kyu-hyuk broke through for Korea in the 52nd minute, with teammate Go Jae-hyeon making it a 2-0 game 20 minutes later.

For good measure, the young Taeguk Warriors added another goal in the 89th minute, care of Park Jeong-in.

Against Singapore, the U23 Azkals will face a team which is out to get its own breakthrough after being held to a 2-2 draw by Timor-Leste in their opener also on Monday.

Singapore turned to an added time goal from Jordan Emaviwe to pull even and salvage a point for its efforts.

NEW COACH
Meanwhile, the Philippine women’s national football team has a new coach in Alen Stajcic.

The former Australian team coach Mr. Stajcic, 47, was officially named on Tuesday and is tasked to steer the Philippines in its bid for a historic International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) Women’s World Cup spot through the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022 in January.

Mr. Stajcic replaced Marlon Maro, who guided the national team to a second straight AFC Asian Cup berth after victories over Nepal and Hong Kong in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup qualifiers in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in September.

The new Philippine coach boasts of impressive credentials, including a five-year stint with the Australian women’s national team, which was highlighted by qualification to the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, where the team reached the quarterfinals.

Joining Mr. Stajcic is assistant coach Nahuel Arrarte.

“We are thrilled that Alen Stajcic has accepted the position to be the head coach of the Philippine Women’s National Team head coach,” said Philippine Football Federation (PFF) President Mariano Araneta. “His appointment shows the commitment and determination of the PFF to give our women’s national team the best possible chance to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.”

The PFF is currently in the process of finalizing the team’s preparation for the Asian Cup that will see it hold tryouts and training in California beginning on November.