The Philippine Na-tional Football Team begins its Suzuki Cup 2016 campaign as it faces Singapore today at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.
The game is at 8 p.m.
After a lengthy preparation leading into the tournament, the Azkals will finally see action in the regional football championship in front of their home fans.
The Philippines is in high spirits going into the Suzuki Cup following its recent victory over world No. 99 Kyrgyzstan, 1-0, in a friendly match held in Manila earlier this month.
On the other hand, four-time Asean Football Federation (AFF) champion Singapore is on a three-game losing skid after absorbing defeats against Japan, Syria and Afghanistan.
During the previous meeting between, the Philippines tapped out in the 2012 semis against the eventual winner Singapore, 0-1, through Khairul Amri’s 19th minute strike in the second leg.
According to team captain Phil Younghusband, there is pressure on their side to perform well especially that they will be playing the group stage in front of their home fans for the first time.
“This will be our fourth tournament in six years and we’ve reached three semifinals. I think the expectancy has changed. In 2010, not many people expected much or anything but we expect to be challenging for the title this year,” he said during the pre-tournament press conference on Friday.
He believes that they have a big chance of clinching the title in this competition considering the quality of the current squad of the Azkals.
“This is the tournament that if you ask any Philippine national team player, it’s the one that you will realistically feel that we have a chance to win a major trophy,” he stated.
Despite the absence of top standouts Daisuke Sato and Javier Patino, the Philippines received a boost with the addition of striker Mike Ott and Filipino-Japanese winger Hikaru Minegeshi.
Bundesliga veteran Stephan Schrock is also back in the team.
Younghusband explained that this year’s tilt will be a great opportunity for the team to play against their previous knockout phase tormentors.
“Its nice to play the three teams that knocked us out in the semifinals in the previous games. We have goals and objectives in this competition. We missed out on the finals in the previous editions but we hope to change that this year,” he concluded.
The Philippines will also be hosting Indonesia and defending champion Thailand in Group A of this year’s AFF championship.