Philippine Azkals’ goalkeeper Neil Etheridge led the men’s national football team’s stunning stop of Group A leader China Team Dragon to force a draw, 0-0, in the Joint Qualifiers’ game for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup held Tuesday night at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod.
Neil Etheridge delivered save after save, including the crucial capture of China’s final attempt, as the Chinese made several attempts to score goals during the 90 minutes of regulation and the five minutes extension of the October 15 game that marked the Azkals goalkeeper’s homecoming.
Wearing white jerseys, the Philippine Azkals made solid defensive stops, forcing the Chinese team to commit errors, and limited their attempts for easy goals.
The draw is a significant feat for the Philippine Azkals, ranked 127th on the FIFA World Rankings and 59 spots behind the 68th-seeded Chinese team to whom it lost earlier this year during the Filipinos’ historic first appearance at the AFC Asian Cup.
In a post-game interview over the ESPN live stream, the English Premier League’s first Filipino player had only praises for the Philippine National Football team.
“Every player from the bench throughout the week has been unbelievable. My team talk before the game was ‘There are 11 players on the field. We’ve earned the shirt… there are nine players begging to get on the field. Obviously, we didn’t get the win but I think it was a well-deserved point at home,” said Neil Etheridge, the Fil-English Cardiff City Football Club’s Best Player and adored hero.
“We’ve defended well, It’s nice to come back to play for the national team, it’s been a long time that I have been out,” said the Azkals’ star player during the press conference.
The draw against China, the win against Guam in September, and the loss to Syria give the Philippine Azkals a 1 Win-1 Draw-1 Loss scorecard with 4 points, putting the national team at 3rd spot in Group A. China remains on top with 7 points from their 2W-1D-0L scorecard.
The Philippine Men’s National Football Team next goes up against Team Maldives on November 14 in Male in the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 to secure a berth in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and 2023 AFC Asian Cup in China.
Forty national teams are playing in eight groups in this second round of the qualifiers. The Philippines is campaigning to be among the 8 group winners and the 4 best runners-up who will qualify for the next round.
The Azkals will play for the Philippines as part of Group A with Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Timor Leste for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games to be held in the country from November 30 to December 11.
WATCH the game and SEND congratulations in the comments below to Neil Etheridge and the Philippine Azkals for showing the world how the China powerhouse team can be stopped!
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