by Jonas Terrado
The Philippine Azkals will get to know which teams they’ll face in the third and final round of the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers when the Asian Football Confederation holds a draw on Jan. 23.
The Azkals reached the last stage of the qualifiers for Asia’s biggest football tournament after placing third in the second round, marked by a dramatic 3-2 victory over North Korea at home last March.
Twenty-four countries, including the Philippines, have qualified for the competition, and will be divided into four groups composed of six. The top two teams in each group advance to the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
A home-and-away format will be used for the qualifiers, much like in the previous round, thus assuring the Azkals five home matches, most likely at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
But the Azkals may face a difficult task of earning a top two spot, especially with some of the top Asian nations still on the group and the Philippines coming off a disappointing performance in the AFF Suzuki Cup where it failed to reach the semifinal round.
Matches will be held during the FIFA international window, beginning this March.