By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
LOCAL fans looking forward to seeing the Philippine men’s national football team back in action have to wait a little longer after scheduled matches of the “Azkals” in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Asian Qualifiers were postponed to a later date over concerns on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) made the announcement on Monday, relaying communication from world-governing body International Football Federation (FIFA), the Asian Football Confederation and AFC member associations, which decided to postpone FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022/AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 matches scheduled on the FIFA International Window of March 23–31, and June 1–9 this year.
Affected by the postponement were the Philippines’ matches against Guam (March 26), China (June 4) and Maldives (June 9).
Said matches are to be rescheduled to a later date, the PFF said, as determined by discussions between FIFA and AFC.
The PFF underscored though that member associations, upon mutual agreement, may still hold the matches during the FIFA International Match Window, subject to approval from both FIFA and AFC.
The Azkals are currently in third spot in Group A of the joint qualifiers with seven points built on a 2-1-2 record.
Syria (5-0-0) is on top of the heap with 15 points, followed by China (2-1-1) with seven. Maldives (2-0-3) is fourth with six points while Guam (0-0-5) has no points and is already eliminated in the race.
The top teams in the groupings in round two advance to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers and earn a spot in the Asian Cup.
The Philippines last faced Syria in the qualifiers in November where it lost, 1-0.