Ignacius Carell Cruz

The Philippine men’s national football team suffered a gut-wrenching 5-nil defeat in the combined 2026 World Cup and 2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers at the hands of World No. 59 Iraq, inside the Rizal Memorial Stadium, March 26, Tuesday.

Photo Courtesy of GMA Integrated News

It was the second loss in the span of five days for newly installed head coach Tom Saintfiet’s team against the Lions of Mesopotamia who narrowly escaped the Philippines in their home soil after an 84th minute goal by Mohanad Ali Kadhim last Friday.

The Iraqis came out firing just 14 minutes into the match after Aymen Hussein converted a wonderful penalty to make it 1-nil.

Afterwards, Amir Fouad doubled the lead at the half-hour mark, 2-0, after a powerful strike in the bottom right corner to further add to the woes of Saitfiet’s side.

Iraq then caught the Philippine defense sleeping as the costly error by Amani Aguinaldo was capitalized by Hussein to get his brace and country’s third goal just in the 36th minute.

After the break, it was the exact same story as Iraq mounted more pressure and bagged more goals courtesy of 20-year-old Zidane Iqbal’s left-footed strike in the 62nd minute to make it 4-0.

The World No. 59 was still not done as a header by Zaid Hantoosh in the 77th minute gave Neil Etheridge no chance to increase the lead, 5-nil.

With the defeat, the Philippines remain at the bottom of Group F with just one point after the losses to Iraq, and neighbors Indonesia and Vietnam.

On the other hand, Iraq boasts an undefeated record with 12 points which secures them a spot in the third round of the World Cup Qualifiers and the Asian Cup.

The Philippines will look to bounce back in June in the last window of the qualifiers against Vietnam and Indonesia as preparation for the AFF Cup in November.