Philippine men's football national team

FILE–Philippine men’s football national team. –MARLO CUETO/

The Philippines will once again face Vietnam and Indonesia before the end of the year after being drawn alongside their two World Cup Qualifiers opponents for the Asean Mitsubishi Electric Cup.

The men’s football team formerly known as the Azkals are also joined by Myanmar and Laos in Group F of Southeast Asia’s major tournament following Tuesday’s draw ceremony held in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Thailand, winner of the last two editions, is in Group A with Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and either Brunei or Timor-Leste, which are going to dispute the final slot in a two-legged qualification round.

READ: PH men’s football team World Cup bid suffers blow with 5-0 loss

A home-and-away format will be used for the third time in the Asean Championship (formerly the Asean Football Federation Championship) slated Nov. 23 to Dec. 21. The top two teams in each group advance in semifinals with the winners facing off for the title.

Coach Tom Saintfiet’s side is currently in the same group as Vietnam and Indonesia in the second round of the World Cup Qualifiers, with the Philippines slated to face both teams in a pair of away matches next month.

Last year’s qualifying window, then handled by coach Michael Weiss, saw the Philippines lose a narrow result to Vietnam and settle for a draw with Indonesia in both games played before big home crowds at Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The Filipino footballers are hoping to make a return trip to the semifinals after disappointing early exits in the pandemic-delayed 2020 edition and in 2022, the latter saw the then-Azkals produce just one win.

It was in the Azkals era where the Philippines had its best form, reaching the semifinals four times in the memorable 2010 run that began with a shock win over co-host Vietnam in the group stage, 2012, 2014 and 2018.

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