Coach Scott Cooper once again frowned at the performance of the Philippine Azkals after being held to a 1-1 draw by Maldives in the final match of the World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers campaign Tuesday, June 15 (Wednesday, June 16 Manila time) in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
The Azkals had taken the early lead on Angel Guirado’s volley in the 19th minute when things turned downhill after Ali Fasir capitalized on the defensive miscue to score an equalizer in the 25th.
Cooper also lamented the wasted chances by the Azkals in the second half, forcing them to share the spoils with Maldives after the final whistle.
While the result didn’t affect the Azkals, who were already assured of third place in Group A and a spot in the third round of the Asian Cup Qualifiers, the Scottish coach could only beg for a better performance from his wards.
“Disappointed with the result,” Cooper said in the post-match press conference. “It’s a game that we should be winning, it’s a game we fully expect to win. But Maldives have improved and they play better football.
“First we got off to a good start, 1-0. Then for about 20 to 25 in the first half, some players decided to not stay in line with the system and not play to the level that we expect.
“I thought the Maldives goal was embarrassing. It’s like playing through cones and we let them pass right through us and it was a well-taken goal. Halftime, we had some strong words and we dominated the second half but Maldives had something to fight for and hold on to and it’s disappointing from that aspect we couldn’t get that goal in the second half,” added Cooper.
The Azkals finished the second round with 11 points, the most registered by a Philippine team in any Asian Qualifiers campaign.
Up next is the third round of the Asian Cup where the Azkals look to secure a top two finish to reach the 2023 edition which will be held in China.
In Sharjah, the Azkals fell 2-0 to China but not before giving themselves a chance to end the match with a point before defeating Guam, 3-0.