History within reach as Azkals face Tajikistan with Asian Cup qualification on the line
Santino Honasan on Mar 27, 2018 10:18 AM
James Younghusband and the Philippine Azkals set their sights on making Philippine football history, Tuesday night against Tajikistan.
The Philippine Azkals are on the brink of making history and could be ninety minutes away from doing so as they close out their 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers campaign against Tajikistan on Tuesday, March 27th at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
A win or a least a draw will send the Azkals to the AFC Asian Cup tournament for the first time in Philippine football history.
Sitting at the top of Group F, the Azkals started strong, picking up back-to-back victories in the Group Stages against Nepal and Tajikistan, creating early separation from the field. In their last three matches however, the Philippine side managed three draws, twice against Yemen and once against Nepal.
Still, the Azkals find themselves in prime position to advance to the Asian Cup tournament, and while a stalemate would be enough, it’s the maximum three points that they’re after.
“This is a game that we have to win because we want to win our home games. We wanna win every game. It’s important for us to beat a team that we’ve beaten before, and we haven’t lost a game yet in the tournament, so we wanna do the same, we don’t wanna lose the game at home.” said Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley during the pre-match press conference. “Our focus is winning the game. If it comes out as a tie, it’s okay, but we’re trying to win our game.”
Coming off a 3-2 win over Fiji in an International Friendly last Thursday, the Azkals, who are coming off a long layoff, have now found their footing, and team captain Phil Younghusband believes that the team is confident heading into the match.
“It’s a big game tomorrow. The players understand that. The team understands that. We’re looking forward to the game and we’re going to the game with good confidence but also very wary of how good Tajikistan are.”
The visitors will need a victory to keep their Asian Cup dreams alive.
Aside from the Azkals making history, Fil-British foward is also on-pace to make some history of his own. Already the leading scorer for the Philippine National Team, Younghusband is one away from reaching the 50-goal mark and would be the first Filipino to do so.
Reaching the half-century mark puts Younghusband up there with the likes of international football greats such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, and many others.
For the Azkals’ skipper however, getting the all-important win is what matters.
“The 50th can wait for another time, the most important thing is we win the game. Obviously it would be perfect if I could score the 50th and we win the game, but the most important thing is the win because that would take us to another level in the Asian Cup.”
With a win, the Azkals will improve to 12 points and finish first in Group F, securing a spot in the 2019 Asian Cup.
With a draw, they finish with ten points and are assured of a top-two finish in Group F, which will also secure a spot in the 2019 Asian Cup.
A loss and the Azkals finish with nine points, while Tajikistan finishes with ten points. Should this be the case, The Azkals will need to hope for a Yemen loss in their final match against Nepal to be assured of a second-place finish in Group F and qualification to the 2019 Asian Cup.
Catch the Azkals as they take on Tajikistan in their final 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers match on Tuesday, March 27th, LIVE on LIGA channel 86 and LIGA HD channel 183. Kickoff is at 7:30 PM.