Bahrain flexed just enough muscle in handing the Philippine Azkals a 1-0 loss in their friendly match yesterday at the Sheik Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Stadium in Arad, Bahrain.
The game is a vital part of the Philippines’ buildup for the second round of the 2025 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and the Middle East squad turned to Ibrahim Al-Khattal of Manama Club, who struck with a header, to deny the Azkals a meaningful win.
Before meeting Bahrain, the Azkals was dealt a 1-0 loss by Kyrgyzstan a few days ago during their first game of the friendly series.
The Philippines will be up against Iraq, Vietnam and Indonesia in Group F when hostilities kick off in November with the top two finishers advancing to the third round and earning slots to the 2027 AFC Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia.
On 16 November, the Azkals will be playing against the Vietnamese at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex before traveling to Jakarta to face the Indonesians on 21 November at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.
The Philippine Football Federation launched its “Stand Your Ground: 10K Strong!” campaign yesterday to rally the fans to come and support the Azkals in the World Cup qualifiers.
PFF president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta encourages Filipinos to troop to the game against Vietnam and give the men’s national team the much-needed home crowd support as the Azkals vie for a spot in the World Cup.
“The fans have always played a vital role behind the success of the men’s national team,” Araneta said.
“As the Azkals embark on another historic World Cup qualifiers campaign, our objective is to make them feel the support of the fans. Let us rally behind our team and show that we can pack Rizal Memorial Stadium. Let us stand our ground for our team and for our country.”
With the upcoming World Cup expanding to 48 teams, Asia will have eight direct slots and one inter-continental playoff spot.
PFF general secretary Mikhail Torre echoed Araneta’s sentiments and is optimistic the Azkals will be able to receive the same love and support the Filipinas had during their FIFA Women’s World Cup stint in New Zealand last July.
“We want to finish the year strong. Our Filipinas did an amazing job in New Zealand and now it’s the Azkals’ turn to play at home,” said Torre, who is also the commissioner of the Philippines Football League.
“It is important for the Federation to work hand in hand with the fans in order to make this campaign a success. We hope this can reignite the fire that once gave people hope that we can perform at the highest level.”