Azkals suffer a tight 2-0 defeat against Vietnam in opening World Cup Qualifiers game

The Philippine National Football Team fell to Vietnam, 2-0, in their 2026 World Cup qualifiers campaign after a lack of clinical finishes in the second half caught up to them last night, November 16, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Vietnam striker Nguyen Van Toan scored the opener in the 16th minute, while substitute Nguyen Dinh Bac iced the game in added time of the second half with a well-placed finish in the bottom corner.

Going against one of the best teams in Southeast Asia, the Philippines set up a formation that was styled to deal with heavy possession by Vietnam and rely on counterattacks for their attack. The first-half trend was precisely that as the Vietnamese dominated the ball. 

The deadlock was broken in the 16th minute after Vietnam striker Nguyen Van Toan dribbled between two Azkals defenders and scored with a lob that Azkals’ goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was only able to get his fingertips on but was unable to save. Vietnam continued to control the pace of the play for the rest of the period as they headed into halftime with a 1-0 lead.

At the start of the second half, the Azkals lost their momentum and what looked like their spirit after slipping Vietnam two goal opportunities; luckily, Etheridge lightened up the team by saving both goal attempts. In the 77th minute, the Azkals had one goal opportunity, with Santiago Rubrico leading the pitch only to miss the goal entirely. 

That did not break the Filipino fans’ spirit, who continuously cheered and screamed, hoping for another opportunity. And that opportunity was granted with a free kick by Stephan Schrock, but without luck on their side, the ball hit the wall. At additional time, number 15 from Vietnam Nguyen Dinh Bac scored a last-second goal to secure a 2-0 win over the Philippine Azkals.

The Philippine Azkals will return to the same venue on Tuesday, November 21, at 7 pm to redeem themselves against Indonesia. With a win, they can see themselves within the top two of Group F, allowing them to advance to the 2027 AFC Asian Cup and the third qualifying round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup. With a loss, they would face a more challenging road to the 2027 AFC Asian Cup and have to make it through the third qualifying round.

Aren Reyes

By Aren Reyes

Vito Alim

By Vito Alim

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