Thursday, 24 March 2011

Azkals need to beat Bangladesh for slot in AFC finals in 2012

Posted by chardyboy on Thursday, March 24, 2011 0 comments

source: By Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer

RANGOON—Forget about the promising start and the complicated scenarios. The Philippines’ campaign to qualify in the AFC Challenge Cup now boils down to one final game.

Battle-weary yet pumped up, the national booters look to nail a spot in the final tournament in 2012 when they face a confident Bangladesh squad in their last match of group qualifying at the Aung San Stadium here on Friday.

Running third in the four-team bracket with two points after two draws, the Azkals’ qualification hopes rest on the 3:30 p.m. duel (5 p.m. in Manila) with the Bangladeshis who are coming off a stunning 2-0 win over Myanmar Wednesday night.

A win—regardless of the margin and regardless of the result of the match between Palestine and Myanmar—will be enough for the Azkals.

Another draw will mean elimination for the Azkals and send Bangladesh through to the next round.

Only the top two teams here will advance to the next round to join India, Maldives, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, which have already qualified from their respective groups.

The Azkals had started brightly in the tournament by grabbing a 1-0 lead against the host Burmese side Monday, before yielding a goal deep into injury time to settle for a 1-1 stalemate. They also battled to a scoreless draw against Palestine Wednesday.

Relaxing outside his room with several teammates at the Hotel Yangon Thursday noon, skipper Aly Borromeo maintained that the Azkals were ready for the challenge.

“We are all pumped up,” said Borromeo. “Mentally we are already there (for the match against Bangladesh). We would have wanted to play today and get this over with.”

Borromeo said the key would be putting the pressure early on Bangladesh and banging in an early goal.

“We have to play direct against them, win every set piece, every corner kick, put crosses in,” said Borromeo. “We must put the pressure right away.”

National coach Hans Michael Weiss has expressed concern over the fatigue factor that could take a toll on his players.

Like Bangladesh, the Azkals will be playing their third match in five days in hot and humid conditions here ranging from 30 to 35 degrees celsius. The Azkals played in Ulan Bator in Mongolia last week in freezing weather.

The German coach is also wary of the Bangladesh threat, having watched them slip-passing their way in the victory against Myanmar.

“Absolutely, this Bangladesh match was what we feel is important,” said Weiss, still looking for his second victory after the 2-0 blanking of Mongolia in Bacolod last February 9.

“We anticipated Myanmar and Palestine to be tough matches. But Bangladesh cannot be underestimated. I think all four teams are in a similar level with advantages that’s why the tournament is decided on the last day.”

The Azkals will miss Rob Gier for the crucial duel, after the veteran defender flew back to England to be with his pregnant wife.

Gier’s absence could pave the way for Roel Gener or Jason Sabio’s return to the starting side.
Filipino-Danish midfielder Jerry Lucena, still fighting jetlag and feeling his way into the squad, is still expected to make his second straight start together with Fil-Spanish attacker Angel Aldeguer Guirado, who has vowed to put up an improved performance from the Palestine game.

Bangladesh’s Croation coach Robert Rubcic believes the Filipinos have the edge against his squad.

“Our team is very tired,” said Rubcic. “The Philippines is a better side, they have better individual players. It will be very difficult. We have young players.”

Similar to the Philippines, Bangladesh also needs a victory for its country, according to Rubcic.

“We will go for the win,” said Rubcic, dismissing the idea that his squad, which only needs a draw, will just sit back and defend for a stalemate. “All of Bangladesh wants us to win. A win is also big for the country.”


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