THE remaining matches of Group A of the joint Fifa World Cup Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifiers will be moved from Suzhou, China to a neutral venue.
The AFC’s decision to move the remaining matches to a different venue was because of the difficulty of the visiting Group A teams in their travel to China.
The AFC is working with the Chinese Football Association in looking for a potential neutral venue, which will be announced in the next few days.
The Azkals, which is in Group A, will continue training in a bubble in Doha, Qatar.
The Philippine squad was supposed to fly in on a chartered flight to China on May 31, 2021. But because of AFC’s decision, they were forced to cancel their flight.
The Azkals are looking to further solidify the squad despite losing some key players for various reasons during the buildup.
“Our priority remains the health and safety of every individual in the team,” said Azkals team manager Dan Palami in an official statement. “We urge the fans to remain patient as we wait for a fair and reasonable decision on the venue and schedule of our matches.”
The biggest loss to the squad is the absence of team captain and star goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who won’t be able to join the team for the remaining matches because of surgery.
The Azkals also lost Carlie de Murga (visa), Iain Ramsay (travel restrictions), Patrick Strauss (injury), Niko de Vera (family emergency), Raphael Obermair (begged off the team), Gerrit Holtmann (Philippine passport), Lloyd Fagerlie (Philippine passport) and Jesper Nyholm (Philippine passport).
The new venue and schedule of the matches will be announced by the AFC soon. The Philippines is currently in third place with seven points behind No. 1 Syria with 15 points and China with 10 points. (EKA)