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Pinoy booters bow to Iraqis

MANILA, Philippines — New-look Philippines put up its best effort against powerhouse home team Iraq but ended up empty-handed in a 0-1 defeat in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Thursday night in front of a 63,750-strong crowd at the Basra International Stadium.

The Filipinos held their own against the unbeaten Lions of Mesopotamia for the most part only to concede the winner to Mohanad Ali in the 84th minute.

The result enabled the 59th ranked Iraqis to strengthen their hold of pole position in Group F with nine points on three straight wins while keeping the No. 139 Philippines stuck at one point on a draw against two setbacks.

Indonesia, meanwhile, vaulted from fourth to second with four points after nipping Vietnam, 1-0, over in Jakarta. The Vietnamese dropped to third with three points on one win against two losses.

As it stands, the troops of new coach Tom Saintfiet must sweep their last three matches, including the return match against Iraq on Tuesday in Manila, to stay alive in the race for the next round.

“I’m not happy with the loss because I hate losing. But I’m very proud of the performance of my team against a strong team,” said Saintfiet, who sought to steal a point versus Iraq in his Philippine debut.