Philippines ranked 17th in Asia before FIFA World Cup elims draw

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is ranked 17th in Asia 5 days before the formal draw for the 2018 World Cup Asian eliminations will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The Philippines landed in Tier 3  which includes Afghanistan, Palestine, Maldives, Thailand, Tajikistan, Lebanon and India. But the Philippines’ position in the World Cup draw will only be known on April 14. 

“What happened is that we are ranked 17th in Asia. There are two other tiers which are composed of nations stronger than us,” said Edwin Gastanes, general secretary of the Philippine Football Federation, in a phone interview with Rappler.com.

Tier 1 is composed of Iran, Japan, SKorea, Australia, UAE, Uzbekistan, China, Iraq while Tier 2 is made up of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, Vietnam, Syria and Kuwait.

Gastanes said the Philippines will not be facing any teams in Tier 3 when the final draw will be held. “We will playing teams from Tier 1, 2 and the others,” he said. 

The qualifiers will be made of five teams playing two matches each - one home and away - in effect a double-round robin. 

The April 14 draw opens a long series of home-away matches with four other teams, which begin either on June 11 or June 16 and lasting into March 2016 for the top qualifier. 

“For example, if we draw Japan, we will play them here and in their country followed by the next opponent,” explained Gastanes. 

Although the top team in the group where the Philippines is drawn advances into the second stage of World Cup eliminations, four teams who land close to the leader will get a chance to get World Cup elimination berths or a third-round qualifying stage in the Asian Cup.

The third and fourth placer in a group also have a chance to enter the qualifying stage of the Asian Cup. 

“Up to the 24th place, we can aspire to get into the Asian Cup,” said Gastanes.    

After the Philippines’ 1-2 loss to Bahrain last week, the Azkals will have three months to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers. The Azakls are trying to get Javier Patinio, a Filipino playing in Thailand to boost the frontline. 

The Azkals used a new system which created some scoring chances but their old woe, lack of strong finishing, showed itself.

In the last cycle of World Cup qualifying, the Philippines beat Sri Lanka 5-1 on aggregate. The Azkals drew 1-1 before winning 4-1. In the second round, Kuwait eliminated the Philippines 5-1 on aggregate. Kuwait won 3-0 and 2-1 in the home and away stages. - Rappler.com