Phl vs Turkmenistan: Azkals need draw to advance
Phl vs Turkmenistan: Azkals need draw to advance
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2014 - 12:00am

Matches tomorrow (National Stadium, Male)

4 p.m. – Turkmenistan vs Philippines (7 p.m. Manila time)

(Hithadoo Stadium, Addu City)

4 p.m. – Afghanistan vs Laos (7 p.m. Manila time)


MALE - A draw would suffice but the Philippine Azkals prefer to bring in a winning attitude as they gun for a semifinal berth in the AFC Challenge Cup against Turkmenistan today in the final day of group B action at the National Stadium.

The Azkals got into an advantageous position to advance after they beat Laos, 2-0, and then Afghanistan nipped Turkmenistan, 3-1, giving the Lions of Khurasan and the Pinoy booters four points after two days of Group B action. The Turkmen got stuck with three points while the Laotians bombed out with two successive losses.

“I know a draw is good enough but I think we now have to start treating it like, if you want to be champions in this tournament, then the mentality is always to beat the other team. That’s how we want to condition the minds of the players,” said team manager Dan Palami.

A stalemate in the 4 p.m. match (7 p.m. in Manila) with Turkmenistan will still put the Filipinos  ahead of the Green Men in the chase for the Top 2 in the bracket, five points to four, and assured of the semis berth regardless of what happened to Afghanistan in the other game against winless Laos over at Hithadoo Stadium in Addu City.

“If we want to win the championship, we have to beat everyone anyhow. We have to go to the next game and we want to win the next game no matter what,” said coach Thomas Dooley after their crucial victory over Laos.

“I don’t wanna play all this gambling (like) maybe a (seek a) tie, maybe if they score two, we score four. No, I want to win every game. I took this game (against Laos) seriously; the next game, I wanna win it. I’m trying to find out how we can beat them (Turkmenistan) and every player in the team will do the same thing then we’ll see what the results will be in the end,” he added.

The Azkals and Turkmenistan had faced off in two hard-fought matches since 2012. The Tukrmen won two years ago, in the semis of the previous Challenge Cup, but the Pinoy booters got back with a 1-0 win in the qualifying stages of the 2014 edition last year at Rizal Memorial.

“We’ve always had interesting games against Tukmenistan and they’re a strong side, there’s no doubt about that; they’re very physical and that will be a tight game, a really tight game,” said Azkals skipper Rob Gier.

“Obviously, we’ll be gunning for the win, no matter what. If you wanna win this competition, if you wanna go to the Asian Cup, then you have to beat the best teams, as simple as that,” he added.

Both squads will have to deal with personnel problems in the final chase for the semis. Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who sat out the game versus Laos due to injured quad, and defender Juano Guirado, who suffered a knee injury Thursday, will likely miss the match for Phl. On the other hand, Turkmenistan will not have custodian and captain Nikita Gurvunov and defender Serdar Annaorazov, who were sent off during the game against Afghanistan, and Shohrat Soyunov, who accumulated two yellow cards in their first two games.

Palami said they expect the team to improve even more and be at the top of their game in time for the knockout stages of the AFC Asian Cup-qualifying meet.

“We’re not yet there. It was a better game especially against a lower-ranked opponent but nevertheless we’re improving. I hope for the next game, we’ll show an even better cohesion among players. We were too slow in the build up so we need to improve on that and just be more accurate with our finishing because the chances are there and we haven’t been really making the most out of this opportunity,” said Palami.

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