Azkals brace for go-for-broke battle against War Elephants

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Azkal Daisuke Caumanday Sato (left) fights for the ball with Vietnam’s Nguyen Van during the group stage of the Suzuki Cup. AFP FILE PHOTO

Azkal Daisuke Caumanday Sato (left) fights for the ball with Vietnam’s Nguyen Van during the group stage of the Suzuki Cup. AFP FILE PHOTO

THE Philippine Azkals are ready for an all-out battle against Thailand’s War Elephants at 7 p.m. tonight in the second leg of the semifinals of the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.

Four days after forcing a scoreless draw in the first leg in Manila, the Azkals are now aiming to score a goal in the Thais’ home court via defensive play. A victory means the Philippines will meet either Vietnam or Malaysia in the finals.

“I feel it, I feel that we could reach the final round because we’re all 100 percent ready. Every game we’re 100 percent,” Azkals’ midfielder Misagh Bahadoran told The Manila Times on Tuesday in a phone interview. “It will be historic for our country if we make it [to the finals].”

“But our focus is to deliver a goal in Thailand and keep them scoreless just like what we did Saturday.”


The Philippine men’s football team reached the meet’s semifinals for the first time in 2010 under Scottish head coach Simon McMenemy and then duplicated the feat in 2012 under German head coach Hans Michael Weiss.

“We have to be ready against them [Thailand]. They will try to do their best to beat us at home,” said Azkals American head coach Thomas Dooley in a separate interview. “But we also prepared very hard against them. I believe our players will make history.”

The Azkals are expected to bank on the skills of Rob Gier, Daisuke Sato, Manny Ott, Simone Rota, Chris Greatwich, Patrick Reichelt, brothers Phil and James Younghusband, and goalkeeper Patrick Deyto, among others.

“1-0 is very good, 1-1 is good. These possible scores are okay for us to advance,” added Dooley.

“We have to withstand the pressure from their more than 40,000 fans in the stadium. We will get that goal and the ticket to the finals,” said Gier, who also led the Azkals to victory against Laos (4-1) and Indonesia (4-0) in group stage bracket A.

Vietnam, meanwhile, will most likely barge into the finals after beating Malaysia at home, 2-1, on Sunday in the other game of the first leg of the semifinals.

Malaysia needs to score at least three goals against Vietnam in their second leg clash and prevent the host team from scoring goals at home in order to enter the finals.

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