By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY –– A lot of Filipinos not necessarily soccer fans have been asking me in person and through the Facebook messenger these past two weeks: “Do we have a team in the World Cup?”
We all know, of course, that we don’t have.
We never had a chance.
We have the Azkals (Street Dogs), our national football team that regularly competes in international football, but it did not–and could not–play in the World Cup.
Not even in 2022 Qatar, with due respect to our national players and the coaching staff.
The reason is because the Philippines has never qualified for the World Cup.
The farthest that the RP national football team has achieved, so far, was having been qualified in the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.
Its best trophy in a major tournament was second place to Palestine at the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup.
The Filipinos can’t even dominate its rivals in the Southeast Asian (SEA Games) and Asian Games.
There’s a drought of gold medal for the Philippine football team even in the regional invitational games.
Without the Filipino-European and Filipino-American booters in Azkals, we can hardly beat Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia.
It was not too long ago when we were once the veritable “whipping boy” in the region.
Not anymore when the Azkals, now coached by Terry Butcher, was formed.
Even if we don’t play in the World Cup, our football has developed by leaps and bounds and our team is no longer a pushover.
Even before Uruguay became the first country in history to win the FIFA World Cup in 1930, the Philippines was already playing at the international level in 1913.
After 78 years, only seven countries, the so-called “Elite Seven”, have won the World Cup in 18 stagings: Brazil (five times); Italy (four times); Germany (three times); Uruguay (two times); Argentina (two times); England (once); and France (once).
In the ongoing 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, two of the four semifinalists (France, England, Croatia, Belgium) could join the Elite Seven.
If Belgium will beat France on July 10 and Croatia will defeat England on July 11, it will be a Belgium versus Croatia match in the championship.
Either Belgium or Croatia could become the eight country in history to bring home the World Cup.
But first they must hurdle their semifinal assignments.
If France and England will clash in the finals, one of them could win the World Cup only for the second time in history.
As we have been saying in the past weeks, the world is going crazy now that the final two teams are about to be unveiled this week.