By ADRIAN STEWART CO
The Philippine men’s football team failed to defend the home court as they bowed to the higher-ranked Vietnam, 2-0, in the 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Thursday night, November 16.
Goals from Nguyen Van Toan and Nguyen Dinh Bac became the difference makers for Vietnam as they surged to the top of Group F standings with a 1-0 win-loss slate for three points.
The Azkals had an opportunity early in the game courtesy of OJ Porteria, but it was defended well by Vietnam’s goalkeeper, Dang Van Lam.
Vietnam then took the lead in the 16th minute as Van Toan took advantage of Azkals’ poor defense for his connection.
The Philippine men’s football team had multiple opportunities to tie the score courtesy of naturalized player Bienvenido Maranon, but his attempts went straight to the hands of Dang.
As the Azkals were trying for the long ball late in the game, Vietnam managed to intercept the ball, which led to a connection by Dinh Bac past the defense of Azkals’ keeper Neil Etheridge.
Vietnam head coach Philippe Troussier admitted that it was a tough game against the Azkals as he was not able to calm down the entire game until Dinh Bac connected the second goal.
“It was the opening match. It was a tough match and we did not know what was gonna happen. When we scored the first goal, we still couldn’t relax, but when we hit the second one, it was the time for us to appreciate my players,” Troussier said.
For his part, Azkals mentor Hans Michael Weiss said he was overall satisfied with the performance of his players as many expected it to be a lopsided affair in favor of the visiting team.
“We needed to go all in. We were down 1-0, so we resorted to the long balls, but the long balls did not come as we wanted, but I think it was a great performance by the team overall,” Weiss said.
“A 1-1 could have been a fair result, but Vietnam is not in top position for nothing. They have the cohesion which the Azkals do not have yet. Also, we have to make some adjustments. This is what we could bring and I am satisfied,” he added./ASC, WDJ