Ignacius Carell Cruz

The Philippine Men’s National Football Team (PMNFT) suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat at the hands of Vietnam to bow out of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, inside the Mỹ Đình Stadium, in Hanoi, Vietnam on Thursday evening.

A heroic goal by Pham Tuan Hai in the 95th minute of the game after a rebound from a powerful strike outside the box of Nguyen Tuan Anh put the Golden Star Warriors in the driver’s seat with less than 120 seconds remaining, which meant they avoid a loss against the Filipino booters who last bested them 12 years ago.

It was a disappointing loss for the PMNFT who grabbed the lead in the 62nd minute of the game, 1-nil, despite squandering opportunities in the first half, courtesy of Patrick Reichelt who converted the wonderful counterattack against the sleeping Vietnamese defense.

However, it took Vietnam only four minutes to equalize courtesy of Nguyen Tien Linh who was the recipient of a cross from Nguyen Van Toan after easily bypassing the Philippine defense inside the box.

Vietnam then showed why they are one of ASEAN’s best as Tien Linh knocked home a header in the bottom right corner in the 76th minute, giving Neil Etheridge no chance, to secure his brace and give Vietnam the lead, 2-1.

When all hope seemed to be lost, Kevin Ingreso equalized once more and gave the Philippines a lifeline in the 89th minute of the game after a set-piece that saw Jesper Nyholm head the ball in the direction of Ingreso, making him available for a right-footed strike.

"I think the boys deserved a draw," said head coach Tom Saintfiet who has yet to secure his first victory since becoming the national team manager.

With the loss, the Philippines remains at fourth place with two draws and three losses and is officially out of contention for the next edition of the FIFA World Cup in 2026.

However, the Filipino booters do have the opportunity to spoil one of their rivals' bid for the World Cup as they play Indonesia in June 11 in Jakarta, who dropped their game against Iraq, 0-2.