After an easy 5-1 win over Taiwan last Wednesday, the Philippine football team Azkals can expect the going to get tough against Myanmar in the final of the 2014 Philippine Peace Cup on Saturday.
The Azkals made quick work of the Taiwanese on the rain-drenched artificial turf of the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium with quick passing and unselfish plays.
Myanmar ousted Palestine, 4-1, in an equally impressive performance in the knockout tournament in the first match.
American Thomas Dooley, the Philippines’ head coach, said Taiwan fought very aggressively, but the Azkals held their ground and converted most attempts due to their passing prowess.
Dooley, 52, who played for USA in the World Cup, said the Azkals should sustain their quick passing game against Myanmar if they are to defend the title.
“We have to move quickly, pass the ball in order to create a lot of chances,” Dooley told The Manila Times via text message on Thursday. “Myanmar is a tough team so we have to play wisely and aggressively.”
Rob Gier and midfielder James Younghusband delivered a goal each to give the Azkals a 2-0 edge at halftime. A heavy downpour interrupted the game for almost an hour, and when play resumed, a Taiwan player committed an own-goal error that made it 3-0 for the Azkals.
Mark Hartmann sealed the Azkals’ victory with two goals in the second half. Yen Ho-Sen scored Taiwan’s lone goal in the 80th minute.
“Overall very satisfied with the performance of the team,” Dooley said. “We did on the field what we talked about in meetings and it worked out.”
Aside from Hartmann, James Younghusband and Rob Gier, the Azkals are expected to bank on veterans Chris Greatwhich, Simon Greatwich, Phil Younghusband, skipper Anton del Rosario, Misagh Bahadoran, Patrick Reichelt and Patrick Deyto, among others.
“We have to play as a team again on Saturday. I’m confident we can win the crown,” Del Rosario said.
Myanmar is coached by Radojko Avramovic, who mentored the Singapore team that took out the Azkals in the semifinals of the 2012 Suzuki Cup and who went on to win the crown.
In his blog, The Passionate Fan, football writer Bob Guerrero describes Avramovic as “a wily mentor who knows Asean football well.”
“If there is one coach who knows how to beat the Philippines, it’s Avramovic. And right now he has a promising Myanmar team humming. Saturday’s final match should be a war,” Guerrero said.
Palestine and Taiwan will contest third place also on Saturday.