Judgement day for Azkals, Thailand

Mark Escarlote on Dec 10, 2014 12:54 PM
Suzuki Cup finals berth up for grabs
Ace striker Phil Younghusband and the rest of the Philippine Azkals will try to make history against Thailand for a berth in the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup finals.

History in the making or another quiet trip back home empty handed? 

The Philippine Azkals will try to bark their way into a breakthrough 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup finals Wednesday night when the Filipinos face the home team, the Thailand War Elephants, in their semifinals second leg match at the Rajamangala Stadium.

“I hope third time’s the charm,” said Azkals ace striker Phil Younghusband with high hopes that the Pinoy booters will finally take their spot in the championship round after missing out in the last two editions.

Younghusband and the rest of the national team brace for a dogfight against the nemesis that had their numbers in the last 14 face offs and they last defeated in 1971. Kickoff is at 8:00 p.m. (Manila time). 

The Azkals defended their turf in a scoreless draw battle last Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

For the PHI squad, the advantage of an away goal is in effect. At least a scoring draw will propel the Azkals to the finals against the survivor of Vietnam-Malaysia semis pairing. The Vietnamese hold the upper hand in the series after a 2-1 win against the Malaysians in their away match. 

The War Elephants will play without their top striker Kirati Keawsombat (hamstring injury) while second attacking option Adisak Kraisorn is suspended for the game after incurring a red card in Manila.  

But Azkals coach Thomas Dooley is wary of Thailand’s power.

“Going into the semifinals is an achievement but going against a team like Thailand, there’s always a 50-50 chance or even a 30-70 chance,” Dooley said.

The same sentiment shared by Azkals team manager Dan Palami.  

“It’s an open game. I think both teams are wary of what could happen. But of course, I feel that somehow players in the first leg had shown a glimpse of how we could play against them and I think we don’t need to deviate too much from that formula,” said the team manager. 

“We just need to be more clinical in finishing, to be less tentative in the first minutes because that’s where we’re most vulnerable. But if we play the kind of game that we played in Manila, I think we stand a good chance of having that upset against the favored Thailand team,” he added. 

In the past two editions, including the opener of their third semis stint, the Azkals are still goalless in the round. The Filipino bets are also in the same situation as the 2012 Cup semis when they held Singapore to a scoreless draw in the home leg before losing in the away game, 1-0.      

ABS-CBN Sports+Action will air the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinal match second leg live on Wednesday starting at 7:30 pm.

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