2018 WCQ Preview: Philippine Azkals meet toughest challenge yet in Uzbekistan

Paolo Buendia on Sep 04, 2015 10:48 AM
Philippine Azkals meet toughest challenge yet in Uzbekistan
(Arvin Lim/ABS-CBN Sports)

The Philippine Azkals are in uncharted territory with two wins from the first two matches in their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying group. Tied in Group H on six points with Korea DPR, the home squad is behind only on goal-difference. Next up is their biggest challenge up to this point, seventy-sixth ranked Uzbekistan, which is the highest-ranked team in the group.

The match will be played in the Philippine Arena on September 8, 2015 at 8:00 pm.

Injuries will deprive the team of regular mainstays Rob Gier (knee) and Simone Rota (broken ribs) while Daisuke Sato is still recovering from a broken hand. Sato was part of the three-man defense that Coach Thomas Dooley used in the 2-0 win against Bahrain back in June along with Jerry Lucena and newcomer Luke Woodland. Possible replacements for Sato are Amani Aguinaldo, Kenshiro Daniels and Juani Guirado. Below is the preliminary lineup for the match:

  1. Javier Patiño
  2. Iain Ramsay
  3. Simone Rota
  4. Daisuke Sato
  5. Paul Mulders
  6. Roland Muller
  7. Manny Ott
  8. Stephan Palla
  9. Amani Aguinaldo
  10. Neil Etheridge
  11. Juani Guirado
  12. Kevin Ingreso
  13. Jerry Lucena
  14. Stephan Schrock
  15. Florencio Badelic Jr.
  16. Misagh Bahadoran
  17. Kenshiro Daniels
  18. Patrick Deyto
  19. Martin Steuble
  20. Dennis Villanueva
  21. Luke Woodland
  22. Phil Younghusband
  23. Paolo Bugas
  24. OJ Porteria

Since the qualifiers use a double round robin format, each team will be facing one another twice. The Azkals started out well with the two wins but will now be playing two tough matches with Uzbekistan first and then Korea DPR on October 8 in Pyongyang. Maintaining the form from the last two matches will be the challenge.

Coach Dooley may have found the right formula in the past two matches with the Azkals playing a free-flowing attack while being defensively sound at the back. If he can find the correct combination of players that are available for on Tuesday, a positive result will be in reach.

Javier Patiño and Misagh Bahadoran are the in-form players leading up to this match. They have performed excellently against Bahrain and Yemen, finally realizing their potential for the national colors. Martin Steuble and Stephen Palla ably provided the width against Yemen. If the same 3-5-2 formation will be used by Coach Dooley against Uzbekistan, these two will be strong candidates to man the wings again. Neil Etheridge will be vying for the starting slot between the posts with Roland Muller and Patrick Deyto.After helping the Azkals past Maldives, Jerry Lucena can also prove to be a threat for the Uzbeks.

The Azkals took care of business against the Maldives last Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, and head into next week’s matchup with a lot of momentum.


Catch the Azkals vs Uzbekistan on Tuesday, September 8, 7:45 pm LIVE on ABS-CBN Sports+Action 23 and BALLS HD 167!

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