BOCAUE, Philippines – Group H of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers was dubbed the Group of Death for a reason. On Tuesday, September 8, the Philippine Azkals discovered that reason.
The Philippine national football team was drubbed by Uzbekistan, 1-5, at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan, Philippines.
As the torrential rains and intermittent lightning began to die down, the nightmare was just beginning for the Philippines. A slow roller from Uzbekistan’s captain Odil Ahmedov slipped through the rain-soaked gloves of Azkals goalkeeper Neil Etheridge barely 45 seconds into the match, giving Uzbekistan the lead.
Uzbekistan, which is rated by FIFA 49 spots above the Philippines at 76, would tack on goals from Igor Sergeev and Sardor Rashidov before the first half ended. Still, the announced 7,500 fans sprinkled across the stadium never dampened their enthusiasm, as chants of “Pil-i-pinas” continued to ring out across the open-air venue.
The second half began as ignominiously for the Philippines as Sergeev tacked on a second goal at the ’65 mark. It wasn’t until Stephan Schrock, who came on at halftime in relief of Iain Ramsay, that the Philippines scored its first goal of the game at the ’68 mark. The score was Schrock’s fourth international goal, but the closer margin wouldn’t last.
Ten minutes later Rashidov scored his brace to give the Uzbeks a 1-5 lead at ’79. By then, the chants became less hopeful, and some fans made their exits ahead of Bulacan traffic.
The loss was a reality check for the Philippines, which had beaten Yemen and Bahrain in June to earn 6 points. The loss now puts the Philippines behind Uzbekistan, which beat Yemen and lost to North Korea, in goal differential. North Korea leads the group with 9 points while the Philippines and Uzbekistan have 6 each.
The Philippines will next play North Korea on October 8 in Pyongyang, followed by a rematch in Bahrain on October 13. – Rappler.com
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