THE Philippines’ chances of advancing to the next round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers went from slim to highly improbable after a 2-0 loss to China at the Sharjah Stadium in Sharjah, UAE.
China’s star striker Wu Lei looked to score early but his shot attempt missed its target. The Philippines retaliated with attempts from veteran forwards Angel Guirado and Mark Hartmann but to no avail.
Despite the absence of team captain Neil Etheridge due to a surgery, 26-year-old goalkeeper Bernd Schipmann did a pretty decent job defending for the Azkals, keeping the match scoreless after one half of action.
Lei, who plays club football for La Liga 2 champion RCD Espanyol de Barcelona, scored China’s first goal by converting a penalty shot in the 56th minute. Lei was awarded a penalty kick after he was fouled by Schipmann inside the box.
Nine minute later, China doubled its lead with a goal by Wu Xinghan from a cross pass by Tang Miao.
China solidified its hold of the second spot in Group A and improved to 13 points behind No. 1 Syria, which clinched the top spot after a 3-0 win over Guam.
The Philippines remained at third place with seven points and just two matches remaining in the Group Stage.
Though its chances of advancing to the next phase of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers are bleak, the Azkals are still in the running for a spot in the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
The Philippines will play against Guam on June 11, and then finally against Maldives on June 15. (EKA)