THE Philippine Azkals under American head coach Thomas Dooley will face the Afghanistan team today for its first game in Group B of the 2014 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup at the Hithadhoo Stadium in Hithadhoo, Maldives.
The Azkals who are aiming to improve their third place finish two years ago in Nepal, battle the Afghans (128th in FIFA rankings) at 9:00 p.m. (Philippine time) after the Turkmenistan-Laos first game at 4:00 p.m.
The Philippines would be banking on the prowess of James Younghusband, striker Patrick Deyto, Stephan Schrock, Paul Mulders, Patrick Reichelt, Misagh Bahadoran, Chris Greatwitch, Jerry Lucena, Nathaniel Burkey and goalkeeper Neil Etheridge among others.
Phil Younghusband and Robert Gier will miss the first game because of a one-game suspension for infractions committed in last year’s Challenge Cup qualifying competition.
“It will be a difficult match but if we play as we have been practicing, we could do it. We are ready to play and hope to surpass the third place record two years ago,” Dan Palami, the team’s long time team manager said.
After Afghanistan, the Philippines meets Laos on Thursday at the same venue then Turkmenistan in the last day of elimination round on Saturday in Male.