COUNTDOWN TO SRI LANKA: Philippines v Sri Lanka, Head to Head

The Philippines and Sri Lanka haven’t played each other since 1996. That, too, was a World Cup Qualifier but back then the first round was a group stage already so Sri Lanka and the Philippines shared a group with India and Qatar. Qatar topped the group with three wins, Sri Lanka placed second on goal difference with four points, India failed to qualify in third while the Philippines were bottom of the group having conceded ten goals and failing to score once in three games, losing to Sri Lanka 3-0 in the process.

A lot has changed since 1996. Fifteen years since the last time the two teams played they are obviously entirely different but the gap in quality has swung round. Of their last five games, Sri Lanka have drawn twice and lost three times while the Philippines have won twice, drawn twice and lost just once, 1-2 against Mongolia when they qualified for the AFC Challenge Cup Group Qualifiers on goal difference. The Azkals, however, can’t be too confident of rolling over Sri Lanka as Sri Lanka’s last five games, with the exception of Afghanistan, have been against much higher rated opponents: Nepal are ranked 147th in the world, Afghanistan 164th, North Korea 115th and Tajikistan, who they played twice in friendlies, 135th.

There definitely does seem to be a swing towards the Azkals, though, who are vastly improving. Once a team who would consistently lost in near cricket scores the team is now rated 6th out of 11 South East Asian countries. In the middle spot, the Philippines are still improving at each game and it is only a matter of time before the Azkals break into the top five and begin to challenge for the top spots in South East Asian football. Sri Lanka, in contrast, are ranked 169th in the world by FIFA and 35th in the AFC. 13 places below the Philippines it is the Azkals who are favourites to triumph over Sri Lanka in Colombo.

India won in 2008

One fact which shows the changing fortunes of the teams is the manner in which in the first AFC Challenge Cup in 2008, the Philippines didn’t even have a team entered while Sri Lanka competed. In the 2009/2010 edition of the AFC Challenge Cup Sri Lanka qualified for the final stage with confident wins over Taiwan and Brunei meaning they topped the group. The Philippines, by contrast, could only manage a win over Brunei, ranked 196th in the world, while losing to Turkmenistan and the Maldives. The following year, however, all of this was reversed as the Philippines qualified for the next stage of the competition with draws against Burma and Palestine and a stunning victory over Bangladesh. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, lost to Afghanistan and North Korea but managed a draw against Nepal. These changing fortunes can be shown in the results of the previous three Challenge Cups, as shown at the end of this post.

Based on form and previous results, particularly of the last two years, the Philippines look to have the edge and go into the game as favourites. The Azkals cannot take the Sri Lankan team lightly though as they have been playing particularly tough opponents of late and if you play against the best you only improve. The Philippines’ last competitive game was against Bangladesh who they beat 3-0, the last time Sri Lanka played Bangladesh was in the 2009/2010 Challenge Cup where they beat Bangladesh by the same score. With their top keeper returning from suspension, albeit suspiciously just before the World Cup qualifiers as reported here, Sri Lanka will still be without their top scorer ever, Kasun Jayasuriya, who remains suspended.

The Philippines are favourites and have the potential to finish off the tie in the first leg, though they still need to perform on the day in order to succeed. The 23 Azkals to go to Colombo are ready to play and are likely to field a new 4-3-3 system which plays four defenders, three midfielders and three attackers. This system provides more wing play and requires a fluid attack, compared to the 4-4-2 system which provides more cover in the centre of the pitch. For the predicted lineup of the Azkals versus Sri Lanka go here. Philippine football keeps getting more exciting as the full potential of the Azkals slowly comes into focus. With just ten days to go until the first leg remember to follow @roymondous and @craigburrows for updates and live commentary of the games.

Next on the COUNTDOWN TO SRI LANKA, player profiles of the newest Azkals to join the team. 

Roy Moore

Co-director of the Fairplay for All Foundation which runs Payatas FC, Kasiglahan FC and Kasiglahan Girls FC. Check out the charity and donate to support grassroots football providing education and homes for street kids:


Previous AFC Challenge Cups 

Format – Country name (FIFA ranking)

Result (Win [W], Lose [L], Draw [D]) Country (FIFA ranking) Score

AFC Challenge Cup 2010/2011:

Sri Lanka (169)                                                                                 Philippines (156)

D v Nepal (147) 0-0                                                                            D v Burma (167) 1-1

L v Afghanistan (164) 0-1                                                                 D v Palestine (171) 0-0

L v North Korea (115) 0-4                                                                W v Bangladesh (163) 3-0

Did not Qualify for next round                                             Qualified for next round

AFC Challenge Cup 2009/2010:

Sri Lanka (169)                                                                                 Philippines (156)

D v Pakistan (168) 2-2                                                                        L v Turkmenistan (141) 0-5

W v Taiwan (160) 2-1                                                                          L v Maldives (148) 2-3

W v Brunei (196) 5-1                                                                           W v Bhutan (196) 1-0

Qualified for next round                                                           Did not Qualify for next round

W v Bangladesh (163) 3-0

L v Tajikistan (135) 1-2

L v Burma (167) 0-4

Did not Qualify for next round


AFC Challenge Cup 2008

Sri Lanka (169)                                                                                 Philippines (156)

L v Nepal (147) 0-3

L v Burma (167) 1-3

L v North Korea (115) 5-1

Did not Qualify for next round                                            Did not Compete


3 thoughts on “COUNTDOWN TO SRI LANKA: Philippines v Sri Lanka, Head to Head

  1. J Santisteban June 19, 2011 / 18:52

    Great commentary (and nice site, too).

  2. mike June 20, 2011 / 00:29

    Great find Roy. I didn’t know we’ve played Sri Lanka in 96

  3. Ligaya Basalo June 21, 2011 / 18:49

    nag-aantay ang mga pinoy dito sa sri lanka for this event….suuuuuuuuuupppeerrr excited….

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