Azkals drawn to Group H of World Cup qualifiers

Ivan Saldajeno (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

KUALA LUMPUR--The Philippine Azkals will become part of Group H of the second round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers after the group draw was held at the JW Marriott Hotel on Tuesday.

The Azkals will join Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Yemen, and North Korea in the said qualifying group.

The teams will play a double round-robin, home-and-away tournament format with the Azkals kicking off their quest for a World Cup spot at home against Bahrain on June 11. The other home matches will be on Sept. 8 against Uzbekistan, Nov. 12 against Yemen, and March 29 against North Korea. The Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue may likely be the host of the match.

Five nights after the Bahrain match, the Azkals will play Yemen on the road. However, the match will likely be staged outside Yemen as the country is barred from hosting AFC matches.

Meanwhile, the reigning AFC Asian Cup champion Australia will join Group B of the second round of the tournament, which also serves as a qualifier for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, along with Jordan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Bangladesh.

On the other hand, three AFF teams, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, form the core of Group F with Iraq and Chinese-Taipei the other squads in the group.

Meanwhile, many tag Group A as the "Group of Death". The group consists of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Timor-Leste, and Malaysia.

The teams who will finish at the top of their respective groups will automatically enter the third round of the World Cup qualifiers along with a seat in the Asian Cup. Four more teams, those with the best records among second-placers, will also clinch spots in the third round and the Asian Cup.

The other second-placed teams, along with the third-placed teams and the four fourth-placed teams with the best records, will battle in the third round of the Asian Cup qualifying, while the rest of the teams will compete in the playoff stages which will complete the 24-team cast of the said qualifying round.