What We Learned From The Azkals’ First Two World Cup Qualifier Games

What does head coach Michael Weiss think of the matches? Who was the real winner of the Azkals’ World Cup Qualifiers home games?

The Philippine Men’s National Football Team, better known as the Azkals, is currently competing in the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers, and for the first time, FIFA is giving Asia nine berths in the upcoming World Cup. Can the Azkals get one of these slots? First, they need to get to the next stage of the qualifying tournament.

The Philippines is a part of Group F, which means in the first round of Qualifiers, the Filipino booters will need to play Iraq, Vietnam, and Indonesia both home and away. After doing so, the top two teams in their group will advance to the next stage.

The Azkals have just concluded their first pair of games in the World Cup on home soil, and following their performances — a loss to Vietnam and a draw to Indonesia — they are currently third in their group, two points away from second.

Here’s what we learned from their first two games.

In critical territory

Despite having the home advantage, the Azkals opened their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 0-2 loss to Vietnam and a 1-1 draw to Indonesia. Thus, they are in dangerous territory in their group — with only one point, they are in third place above Indonesia only on goal difference.

However, Azkals head coach Michael Weiss felt that this should not have been the case after two home games. In his words after the match against Indonesia, “The Vietnam match was supposed to be a draw and this in the first half, you have to bury the game with so many chances…We had too many chances, we should have scored.”

With this, he felt that the National Team should have walked away with four points instead of one and was disappointed in the outcome. Indeed, on both occasions, the Azkals had many chances to score, especially in their match against Indonesia, and their form was promising. In fact, many fans took to social media to praise the Azkals for their performances, though still pushing for better results, especially if they want to advance.

Azkals 2026 World Cup Qualifiers

As the lowest-ranked team in Group F of the World Cup Qualifiers, the Azkals were already coming in as underdogs. However, as they opened the campaign with a fresh slate and on home soil, this might have been their best chance to notch the wins they will need to advance to the latter stages of the tournament. But, as the underdogs, Weiss’ disappointment may be a good sign — a refusal to settle for sub-par results despite what rankings might predict.

“I cannot believe how after what we have invested in the last two games, we can stand here with one point only…It’s a bit frustrating, but we have to move on.”

Still, Weiss remains optimistic about the Azkals’ potential. He believes the team has seen improvement in comparison to the past several years, and consequently, that the team will continue to improve when they come back for their next set of games next year.

Azkals 2026 World Cup Qualifiers
The appetite for football in the Philippines is growing

Despite the Azkals’ disappointing results, the Philippines should still feel good about one particular win: getting the fans to Rizal Memorial Stadium.

In the weeks leading up to these pair of games, the Philippine Football Federation started a campaign to get the fans involved in the World Cup Qualifiers: #StandYourGround #10KStrong. Using this campaign, the PFF and the Azkals took to social media to call for fans to show up at Rizal Memorial to cheer on the squad — and they delivered.

In the first game against Vietnam, the PFF was successful in achieving their goal of bringing 10,000 fans to the grounds. In fact, they even went beyond this target, as they counted 10,378 spectators who came to witness the action.

Azkals 2026 World Cup Qualifiers
Azkals fans

Against Indonesia, the Azkals again came close to the 10,000 mark, the fan count reaching 9,880.

On both occasions, the fans didn’t just come to watch the matches — though of course, this was the main event. On top of this, the PFF set up a ‘fan zone’ for the spectators, where they could enjoy food, drinks, mini-games, and other activities before the kick-off. This was something the fans took full advantage of.

Philippine Football Federation Fan Zone and Mess Hall

This is a win in itself for Philippine football. Reaching over 10,000 fans in Rizal Memorial for an Azkals game, and for a World Cup qualifier no less, is the highest number in recent years, showing that the appetite for Philippine football is starting to pick up again. And whether the fans are brutal with the players or are ever supportive, simply having this kind of attention should be enough to motivate the team to push forward from this point on.

Images courtesy of PFF.

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