The Philippines men's national football team drew with the Maldives 1-1 on Wednesday (Manila time) to finish 3rd in their group at the end of the joint FIFA World Cup 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifying tournament.
Winger Angel Guirado put the Azkals on the board 19 minutes in at Sharjah Stadium in the United Arab Emirates, but striker Ali Fasir did not waste time negating that with a goal of his own 6 minutes later.
The draw -- the Azkals' second of the tournament -- gave Scott Cooper's side 11 points on 8 matches, good for third place in Group A. The Filipinos finished their campaign with 3 wins and 3 losses, too.
The Philippines had entered the match already safe through the final round of qualifying for the Asian Cup.
Syria (21 points) and China (16) topped the group.
The Azkals' 11 points was 1 better than their finish at the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Third place is right about where Cooper's expectations were, given the abbreviated buildup and several players who had committed to the squad but begged off because of injury.
"It is what it is. I'm sure all of the countries are dealing with somewhat similar things as well, but we're gonna be positive," Cooper said in an interview prior to the tournament.
According to Cooper, the best case scenario for the Azkals is to come in second in the group, but this "would take a near miracle."
"I think we gotta make sure we secure third place, so we got a decent group in the Asian qualifiers," he said. "We gotta get back to the next Asian Cup."
Against China in their opening match, the Philippines looked prime to make Cooper's thoughts a reality but after a staunch performance in the first half they gave up a penalty and a strike after the break to lose 2-0.
The Azkals brushed that aside with a subsequent 3-0 thumping of Guam.
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