The Big Picture: 3 Scenarios for Azkals crucial game against Palestine

Gerrit Holtmann kept our dreams of making it to the Asian Cup for the second straight edition alive with that last-gasp goal against Mongolia. However, to make it happen, the team needs to be at its best in its final Group B match against Palestine on June 14 at 12:30 p.m.

We simply need to win to assure ourselves of a spot in the Asian Cup, that way, we don’t need to rely on the results in the other groups to know if we made it. A win against Palestine will make us the winners of Group B and will also have that added bonus of easing the heartache of losing the 2014 Challenge Cup final, the match when Neil Etheridge got a red card and Carli de Murga had to step up. (Edit. That wasn’t the match that Neil got red-carded).

TEAM EFFORT. Gerrit Holtmann may have saved us against Mongolia, now the whole team has to step up in the crucial match against Palestine.

I thought that with six points, Palestine could afford to send its second-stringers (for experience) in its final match but with the way the rest of the groups have played out, even six points is not an assurance that a team would advance to the Asian Cup final as one of the five best runner-up teams.

Here’s how the runner-up table looks so far. I’ve included, not just the runner-up but the third-ranked teams in Groups A and E that have a chance at finishing second.

Group CThailand20065
Group FKyrgyzstan20063
Group DIndia20063
Group BPhilippines10141
Group EMalaysia1103+1
Group AIndonesia11030
*Group AKuwait11032
*Group ETurkmenistan1103-1
*Third placers still in the hunt for a runner-up finish.

So, the bottom four teams all have the potential to finish with six points and goal difference will be used to determine which will advance. Ironically, Indonesia currently ranked last of all the runner-up teams at three points, has all the advantages going into the final matches. Not only will it face tail-ender Nepal on June 15 at 3:15 a.m., as the last match of the qualifiers, Indonesia will know what needs to be done as all the rest of the group matches would have been played. Before the Indonesia vs. Nepal match, will be the Kuwait vs. Jordan match at 12:15 a.m.

So what are the three scenarios?

A. ) Win vs. Palestine

The best option and the main target of the Azkals. A win against Palestine puts us at seven points and earns us a spot in the AFC Asian Cup as one of the six group winners. We’ve only met them once, and that was eight years ago in the AFC Asian Cup final when we lost 1-0. Aside from Etheridge, the other holdovers from that 2014 squad are Daisuke Sato, Patrick Reichelt, OJ Porteria and Simone Rota. Nate Burkey, one of the forwards of the 2014 squad is now a member of the coaching staff of Thomas Dooley and has brought with him his lucky flag.

B.) Draw with Palestine

Now here’s an ugly scenario. A draw with Palestine puts us at five points, making us the sure runner-up of Group B as Yemen could no longer out-rank us. But at five points, we’d have to look at the results of these matches:

Group EMalaysia vs. BangladeshJune 14, 9 p.m.
Group EBahrain vs. TurkmenistanJune 14, 5:15 p.m.
Group AJordan vs. KuwaitJune 15, 12:15 a.m.
Group AIndonesa vs. NepalJune 15, 3:15 a.m.

Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia and Turkmenistan all have three points and can finish with six should they win their final matches, meaning under the scenario, we will be the last ranked runner-up should all four win their final matches.

Should we be held to a draw, we have to hope none of the Group A or Group E runners-up finish with six points, so let’s hope they play to a draw. A win by Kuwait, Indonesia, Malaysia or Turkmenistan (Jordan and Bahrain are at six points), gets them to six points and the AFC will have to go through goal difference to determine the best runners-up, while we are left to ponder what could have been.

C.) Loss to Palestine

What happens if we lose? Well, we can all cry our collective hearts out and curse everyone. However, there’s still a mathematical chance of us making it to the final round if we lose to Palestine but that’s if all the cards fall our way. A loss will keep us at four points, which means we have to wait for the following results.

Group BYemen vs. MongoliaJune 14, 5:15 p.m.
Group EBahrain vs. TurkmenistanJune 14, 5:15 p.m.
Group EMalaysia vs. BangladeshJune 14, 9 p.m.
Group AJordan vs. KuwaitJune 15, 12:15 a.m.
Group AIndonesia vs. NepalJune 15, 3:15 a.m.

The best scenario under that worst scenario would be a loss by one goal, so our goal difference will be at 0 and Yemen will have to beat host Mongolia by five goals to dislodge us from the runner-up spot on goals scored. Aside from that, we will have to pray that bottom-ranked Bangladesh will beat Malaysia and top-ranked Bahrain will beat Turkmenistan, so the runner-up of Group E will only have three points. With a GD of 1, a draw by Malaysia means it finishes above us. At -1, a loss by Malaysia and a draw with Bahrain means Turkmenistan finishes below us in the runner-up rankings.

If those matches don’t turn our way, we can keep praying that Indonesia loses to Nepal and Kuwait loses to Jordan, so the runner-up of Group A will only have three points. Indonesia has a goal difference of 0 but has scored two goals, while Kuwait has a GD of 2, so a draw by either of them means they finish above us in the runner-up rankings.

Mike T. Limpag
Mike T. Limpag

Mike T. Limpag has covered the Cebu sports scene for over 20 years, starting as an 18-year-old cub reporter for the Freeman in 1997 before moving to SunStar Cebu in 2001.

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