Home crowd plays crucial role in Azkals’ Suzuki Cup bid

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Fan support will be crucial when the Philippine Azkals plunge in to action in the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup, according to Philippine Football Federation (PFF) President Mariano Araneta.

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With the start of the preliminary round of the tournament just around the corner, the top local football executive called for fans to support the games of the national football team.

“The first game is very crucial that is why we hope the fans will show up and support our Azkals,” Araneta explained during one of the team’s training sessions on Wednesday.

The Philippines will be starting its quest against Singapore at the Philippines Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan on Saturday.

Filipino-German Stephan Schrock tackles a Cambodian player during their previous friendly game at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila. FILE PHOTO

Filipino-German Stephan Schrock tackles a Cambodian player during their previous friendly game at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila. FILE PHOTO

Araneta stressed that getting a win in their initial match-up in the competition will be a big boost on their chances of earning a berth for the knockout rounds.

“A win against Singapore this coming Saturday will set the tone for our campaign in the Suzuki Cup,” he mentioned.

The Azkals are currently on top of the standings in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) with a current rank of No. 124 in the world and No. 17 in the continental list.

They will be looking to quench their title drought in the Southeast Asian Championship as they host their Group A rivals at the 20,000-seater stadium owned by religious group Iglesia Ni Cristo.

They will also be hosting the team of Indonesia on November 22 before clashing with defending champions Thailand in the final day of the tilt on November 25.

During the previous editions of the AFF Championship, the Philippines failed on its bid to enter the final stages after crashing out in consecutive semifinal rounds.

The Azkals first notched a berth to the semis in 2010 but were unlucky to tap out against Indonesia, 2-0, in their contest. Similarly, the teams suffered the same fate in the 2012 and 2014 editions against Singapore, 1-0, and Thailand, 3-0.

However, the team has vowed that they have high hopes in this year’s AFF meet as they will be playing the elimination round matches on their home soil.

Together with the recent success against world No. 99 Kyrgyzstan earlier in the month, Azkals goalkeeper Roland Muller held that they are ready to face their foes.

“We are ready and confident. We have team chemistry. We just hope the fans will show up and be the 12th man for the team on the field,” he concluded.

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