MANILA, Philippines -- While they are disappointed about the result of their match against China last Tuesday, the Philippine Azkals remain in high spirits heading into their final two games of the joint FIFA World Cup/AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.
The Azkals absorbed a 2-0 setback against China, which kept them at seven points in Group A while China improved to 13 points, and boosted their chances of advancing to the next round of World Cup qualifiers.
"We know we produced a solid performance against China, we are still bitterly disappointed to lose the game," said Azkals coach Scott Cooper in a press conference, Wednesday.
The game was nil-nil at the half with the Azkals having the better chances. Though China dominated possession, Cooper was satisfied with how their defense kept their opponents from finding the back of the net.
The Azkals' resistance cracked in the second half, however, with Wu Lei converting from the spot at the 56th minute after goalkeeper Bernd Schipmann was booked. Wu Xinghan put the match away with a second goal in the 65th minute.
"We're okay with the performance, (but) we're not okay with the result," said Cooper. "No one can ever be okay with a loss."
Nonetheless, their performance gives the Azkals some confidence heading into their next match against Guam on Friday, still at the Sharjah Stadium in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
The Philippines previously beat Guam, 4-1, in their first match last September 2019, but Cooper warned that both teams have gone through drastic changes since then.
"It will be a different plan because it's a totally different set of players," he said. "Without giving too much away, I'm sure you'll see something different."
Defender Michael Kempter, who got elbowed in the face in the first half, is expected to be available against Guam as per team manager Dan Palami. Kenshiro Daniels, who was also injured, is day to day.
With two matches left, Cooper said the target is maximum points so that the Azkals will be in a good position in the third round of qualifying for the Asian Cup.
"We have to think that the most return that any Azkals team's ever had in the World Cup group stage is 10 points. We're at seven (points) now with two left," he noted.
"So hopefully we can equal if not surpass that, and then build on what is a promising looking future, with young players," he added. "The players are in good spirits… Hopefully, we can move on to this Guam game, and then the Maldives game."
"Hopefully we can get the points we want for a good Asian Cup qualifying group spot."
Kick off against Guam is at 10 p.m., Philippine time. The Azkals conclude the second round of qualifying against the Maldives on June 15, with kickoff also at 10 p.m.