THE Philippine Azkals are eyeing to employ a defensive game against
powerhouse War Elephants of Thailand in the first of the two-leg semifinals matches of the 2014 Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup at 8 p.m. today at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila.
The Azkals finished second in Group B of the group stage with six points from two wins and a loss to earn a semifinals berth.
Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley said that the strategy is for his wards to protect the home court and prevent the aggressive onslaught of the Thais.
“It won’t be an easy game of course that’s why my players need to do a good defensive job,” Dooley told The Manila Times on Friday in a pre-match press conference at the Manila Hotel. “We must do everything to stop them from hitting a goal Saturday night.”
“We have to be very, very focused on defense so they don’t get any goal because a goal would become double [in aggregate]. This is an important game,” he added.
“But I’m confident we can beat the Thais and there’s a strong chance that we can move to the finals. The team is hungry to win.”
Azkals Rob Gier expressed confidence to win against the War Elephants, “We just have to believe in our selves and it is now or never for us. Big games need big performance from our players against the Thais. I believe we can make it,” he said.
The undefeated Thailand squad had an impressive performance in the group stage Bracket B sweeping the entire three matches to post a leading nine points on three wins.
Thai head coach Kiatisuk “Zico” Senamuang said that he expects the Filipinos to be more aggressive.
“We have to play smarter than them and I think they already adjusted well,” he said.
The Azkals are expected to bank on the prowess of Patrick Reichelt, Amani Aguinaldo, Manny Ott, Simone Rota, Daisuke Sato, Misagh Bahadoran and brothers Phil and James Younghusband, among others.
“We prepared very well against Thailand. When we lost to them in a friendly match by 3-0, we have only few players. Now, we’re complete and we’re all ready,” said Bahadoran.