After absorbing a tough 0-2 loss to China early Tuesday, expectations for the Philippine Azkals now shift into securing a direct spot in the third round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Doha, Qatar.
While mathematically possible, it is realistically improbable for the Filipinos to advance to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers.
Only the four best runners-up across all qualifying groups will advance to the next stage of the World Cup qualifiers.
With the third placed Azkals trailing China by six points with two games to play, the Filipinos' chances are bleak.
For the Philippines to overturn the deficit, the Chinese have two lose their final matches against the Maldives and Syria. Then the Azkals still have to beat both Guam and the Maldives by a huge margin to overcome China's vastly superior goal difference.
Fortunately for the Azkals, passage to the next stage of Asian Cup qualification remains in their control.
The third placed team in all groups will automatically progress to the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers. Fourth placed teams will hope they racked up enough points to avoid a play-off in for the next round of the Asian tilt.
Simply put, defeating both Guam and the Maldives will see the Philippines progress to the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers directly.
The Azkals could also secure qualification on Friday should they beat Guam and the Maldives lose to China in the later kick off that same day.
A Maldives victory or draw against China, would turn their last fixture against the Philippines into a battle for direct qualification to the next round of the AFC Asian Cup.
The Philippines will take on Guam on Friday night at 10 p.m. Philippine time (One Sports and One Sports+) at the Sharjah Stadium in the UAE. China will take on the Maldives at the later kickoff at the same venue.