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Azkals stumble vs Vietnam to open bid in World Cup-Asian Cup qualifiers

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Azkals struggled in finding the finishing touch against regional rival Vietnam, falling 2-nil in their opening fixture of the joint 2026 FIFA World Cup and the 2027 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Thursday.

Against the regional powerhouse, the Azkals were unable to score an equalizer after Nguyen Von Toan scored the visitors’ first goal at the 16th minute mark.

The home team failed to convert on multiple close chances late in the match, including a crucial mis-kick from naturalized player Bienvenido Marañon at the 85th minute when a cross from Patrick Reichelt found its way to him in front of goal.

But the Spanish-born booter could not get any power behind it, as it sailed wide right and past Vietnam goalkeeper Dang Van Lam.

Earlier, Reichelt was also taken down dangerously near the box which gave the Philippines a crucially placed set-piece.

But, Marañon and Stephan Schrock’s efforts were unable to amount to anything as the free kick ended up smack in Vietnam’s wall.

Also getting a chance for the home team was Santiago Rublico in the 77th minute. But his shot inside the box went just wide right to the chagrin of the Azkals faithful.

More than 10,000 fans witnessed the national team compete at Rizal Memorial Stadium.

But the door was slammed completely shut in added time when Nguyen Dinh Bac powered a shot past multiple Azkals from outside of the box for the insurance goal as they went up, 2-0, with the clock running out.

The Philippines thus absorb a sour start to their bid. They face reigning Southeast Asian Games champions Indonesia on Tuesday, November 21, at the same venue.