July 22, 2024

'We can only grow': Tom Saintfiet sees bright future for Philippine Men's National Football Team despite World Cup Qualifiers exit

The Philippines finished last in Group F in the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers second round behind Iraq, Indonesia, and Vietnam | Photo (c) PMNFT

"We can only grow." 


Philippine Men's National Football Team (PMNT) head coach Tom Saintfiet had this to say regarding the future of Philippine football despite seeing the end of their 2026 FIFA World Cup dreams. 


"I see a strong frame. I see a lot of young players who are eager to play with the right spirit," Saintfiet said in the aftermath of the Philippines’ 0-2 loss against Indonesia in their final qualifying match on Tuesday evening, June 11.

 

 

[ALSO READ:  Philippine Men's National Football Team coach Tom Saintfiet points out positives after elimination in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers]

With the World Cup qualifiers out of the picture for now, Philippine Football Federation (PFF) President John Gutierrez emphasizes that PMNFT is now setting its sights on the ASEAN Mitsubishi Electric Cup and the 2027 Asian Cup. 

 

Despite going winless in Group F, the Filipinos are still through to the third round of the 2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers.

 

 "The result will push us to work double time in strengthening our national men's team coming to the ASEAN Championships in November and the Asian Cup qualifiers in March 2025,’ Gutierrez added. 

 

 Gutierrez also added that the Philippine U-19 team will start preparing for the 2024 ASEAN U19 Boys Championship in Surabaya, Indonesia this coming July 17-29. 

 

 The Nationals capped off their World Cup qualifiers campaign winless in five games and drawing once to finish dead last in Group F behind Iraq and Indonesia, who qualified to the next round.

 

[ALSO READ: Gauging the opposition: Azkals take on rough neighbors in FIFA World Cup qualifiers]

 

Patrick Reichelt--who scored for the Philippines in the heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Vietnam--provided the country’s best chance to score in the opening half, but his effort in the 22nd minute was safely thwarted by Indonesian goalkeeper Ernando Ari.

 

Amani Aguinaldo's last minute-header effort to salvage a goal for the Philippines sailed wide right. 


Adding to the Philippines' woes was the status of defender Adrian Ugelvik, who had to be rushed to an ambulance out of the pitch after a nasty collision against Ari in the 85th minute. 


"First of all, let's offer our prayers for the immediate recovery of our rookie defender Adrian Ugelvik," Gutierrez plead.


Saintfiet shared his frustrations on the officiating regarding the play, hoping the referee made a call on the unfortunate incident. 

 

Photo (c) PMNFT

"The goalkeeper, he touched the player (Ugelvik)... I think the referee can whistle a penalty for that with five minutes in normal time to go. The referee didn't whistle,” Saintfiet spoke. 

 

 “I can’t change the referee's mind. I understand… But these were moments when we could have come back in the game." 

 

The 2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers will begin on March 2025. The remaining squads will be organized into six groups of four to play home-and-away round robin matches. Only the group winner will head to the Asian Cup.

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