AFTER a draw and back-to-back wins in the elimination round, the Philippine men’s football squad is pumped up for its semifinal showdown against host Maldives in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup on Tuesday.
A scoreless draw against Afghanistan and victories against Laos and 2012 finalist Turkmenistan earned the Azkals seven points to top Group B during the elimination round for an automatic semifinal slot.
Striker Phil Younghusband and Patrick Reichelt provided the scoring punch for the 140th FIFA-ranked Azkals with one goal each, while goalkeeper Roland Mueller provided good defensive job to contain Turkmenistan’s goal attempts.
Thomas Dooley, the American coach who replaced German Hans Michael Weiss last February, is confident the Azkals could score two more wins to win the Challenge Cup and qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup.
“I know what the team can do,” said Dooley to the AFC web site. “Our focus is on winning the Challenge Cup.”
The Azkals are expected to be led by Simone Rota, Daisuke Sato, Rob Gier, Reichelt, Rota, Stephan Schrock, Phil and his brother James Younghusband, goalkeeper Mueller, Jerry Lucena and Amani Aguinaldo.
Maldives, ranked 153rd by FIFA, finished second in Group A with 4 points on one win, one draw and one loss.
Afghanistan, which settled for second place with five points on one win and two draws, will meet Group A leader Palestine, which had two wins and a loss during the group stage.
The Philippines beat Maldives 3-2 the last time they met, in the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.