2019 AFC Asian Cup Match Day Preview: China Vs Philippines; A Rivalry That Goes Beyond Basketball

China Vs. Philippines in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup
(Photo: Nasya Bahfen)

Over the years, there has been no shortage of conflicts between the People's Republic of China and the Philippines. From sports to the political courts, these two countries and would-be allies have fought tooth and nail for supremacy. This time, however, the battle would be played in the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Aram Emirates as China and Philippines face-off in the group stage of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

While the political tension between the two proud nations has seemingly fizzled down through diplomacy, the storied rivalry between China and the Philippines is very much alive. Granted that the most epic battles were fought in basketball arenas, there is no doubt that the much-anticipated Group C matchup between the China PR Dragons and the Philippine Azkals (Street Dogs) in the 17th edition of the AFC Asian Cup will live up to its billing.

China, a perennial superpower in Asian football, comes in as the odds-on favorite to prevail over the Philippines. Ranked 76th in the world, the Dragons qualified for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup by placing second in Group C of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualification (AFC Second Round). China compiled an impressive 5-2-1 win-draw-loss record to finish second behind Qatar.

In China's first game in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, the Dragons came back from a goal down to defeat tournament newcomer Kyrgyzstan 2-1. Currently sitting on top of Group C, China started sluggishly and conceded a goal to Akhlidin Israilov 42 minutes into the match. China equalized when the Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper pushed the ball into his own net barely five minutes into the second half. The Beijing Guoan star Yu Dabao scored the winner in the 78th minute to catapult China in first place of the group.

While China had to overcome a sloppy first game, the Philippine Azkals fought a neck-and-neck match against tournament favorite South Korea. And while the result (and the statistics) may have shown that the Taeguk Warriors dominated Azkals, fans and experts alike lauded the Southeast Asian country for holding their own against one of the best footballing nations in the region.

The Philippine Azkals, playing in their first ever AFC Asian Cup, made it difficult for the South Koreans to penetrate the well-organized line in the first half. In the second half, however, the Gamba Osaka striker Hwang Ui-Jo scored the winner in the 67th minute. The South Koreans held on from there to send the Philippines at the bottom of Group C.

The Azkals, ranked 116th in the world, have reasons to be optimistic coming into today's match against China. The Philippines would be the underdogs with China being the more experienced side, but the Azkals performance against the fancied South Korea shows that they are no pushovers. To boot, the Philippines topped its group to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup without dropping a single game.

Only three teams will advance to the next round and it is vital for the Philippines to get a positive result against China. That being said, fans would be treated to a match unlike any other in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. With the rich history and rivalry between China PR and the Philippines, expect both sides to give their all in the pitch.

The Group C match between China PR and the Philippines will be held in Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Aram Emirates, 5:30 PM local time. In the other Group C match, South Korea will take on Kyrgyzstan following the China-Philippines match.

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