Final score: Philippines 4, Sri Lanka 0 (HT 2-0)
Azkals wins (5-1 aggregate)
Caligdong '19
P. Younghusband '43
Guirado '51
P. Younghusband '57 (penalty)

Inspired play of ace striker Phil Younghusband propelled the Philippines past Sri Lanka to book a second-round playoff against the dangerous Kuwaiti team. As promised, the Azkals break off from their bad first leg performance with a gutsy goal by Chieffy Caligdong in the 19th minute. Egged on by the partisan home-crowd and the presence of lovey-dovey Angel Locsin, Younghusband scored a controversial goal before the end of the first half. The match official almost disallowed the goal to count after a physical contact initiated by Phil on the last of the two Sri Lankan defenders. Fortunately, the other official overruled the decision and the goal still counts. The first half ended in a comfortable 2-0 lead.

Stephan Schrock and captain Aly Borromeo were slapped their second yellow cards in the game therefore they won't be able to play for the all-important road game at Kuwait on July 23. Despite that, the Azkals continued to score with an amazing gung-ho attack by Fil-Spaniard Angel Guirado on the Brave Reds defense as he outplayed the onrushing goalkeeper to scored in a spectacular fashion. Younghusband put the final nail in the coffin as he scored the fourth goal via penalty.

Now that the team will finally move on to the next round for the first time, Kuwait awaits our team on a match at the 22,000-capacity Mohammed Al-Hammad Stadium on July 23 and a scheduled return match in the Rizal Memorial Stadium on July 28. The winner of this home-away fixture will move on to the third round where higher-ranked AFC teams awaits. The survivor will meet the top five Asian teams: Japan, South Korea, Australia, North Korea, and Bahrain. The road to the World Cup is long and even if a team can't top the final round of the Asian qualifying rounds, the team has to placed fifth to qualify for a possible playoff with a fifth placed South American team with the winner getting the last ticket to Brazil.

The question remains, how will the Azkals regroup now that they will be playing against a higher-ranked team on their home turf. No Borromeo and Shrock. Though Phil scored at will in the second leg but doing that on the Kuwaitis in their pitch could a big uncertainty. The Azkals are still groping for form and it will take some time before they will become a cohesive team that will contend in the next few games ahead.

Well Filipino fans will be in full-force in Kuwait as the team will go for history and move on to the third round and face the favorites. Win or lose, Azkals have already proven themselves as the newest underdog contenders in sports.

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{picture#} JP Canonigo is a historian, professional blogger and copywriter, online content specialist, copywriter, video game junkie, sports fanatic and jack-of-all trades. {facebook#} {twitter#} {google#}
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