Azkals seek redemption vs Yemen tonite

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Azkals coach Thomas Dooley expects the Pinoy booters to respond to the challenge as they try to stay alive in the Fifa World Cup Qualifiers with a victory against Yemen in a crucial home match tonight at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

“It’s a game where you have to win, you play good and do something special for the team, the fans, and the federation, so we’re looking forward to this game,” Dooley said during yesterday’s pre-match presscon at Manila Hotel.

“Everybody’s in good mood, everybody looks sharp and I think we’re well-prepared for the game. We know it will be a difficult one and it will take all of our efforts; you can be sure we’ll do our 110 percent to win the game,” said Stephan Schrock, who will wear the captain’s armband in place of suspended Phil Younghusband.

The Azkals have their backs against the wall after dropping a 0-2 setback to Bahrain last month in Manama. The result stalled Phl in Group H, leaving it stranded at third with seven points (2-1-2 win-draw-loss card) behind North Korea’s 13 and Uzbekistan’s nine. Bahrain closed in at fourth with six points.

The Filipinos face a must-win situation not only against Yemen at 8 p.m. tonight but also versus Uzbekistan in Tashkent and North Korea in Manila in March 2016 to have a shot at a berth to the WCQ third round.

“It’s absolutely a must-win game. If we lose, we’re out. If we win, we’re alive, we still have a chance to advance to the next round, that’s what we wanna do,” said Dooley.

“We also have to win the game because we don’t want to lose to a team that’s behind us (in world ranking). Lastly, the feeling you have when you win this game and know you’re alive and you have three months to prepare for the next games, that would be really good for the team and everyone,” he added.

The Azkals look to redeem themselves at home after the sorry away loss in Manama.

“While it was a disappointing game for us in Bahrain, we have a chance to recover in this game against Yemen so hopefully we get the victory,” said team manager Dan Palami. “We’ll take it one game at a time and really prepare hard for the last two games against the Top 2 teams in our group, Uzbekistan and North Korea.”

Roland Muller will be in goal for the first time in lieu of Neil Etheridge, who hasn’t fully recovered from a leg injury. 

“Roland had an excellent training session, he looked sharp, very quick,” said Dooley of the Fil-German, who did an outstanding job when he manned the goal in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup.

The team welcomes back striker Javier Patino for offensive boost as it seeks a repeat of its 2-0 disposal of Yemen last June in Qatar.

“We have to get the ball in the box and he can finish. He scored a lot of goals in China (Chinese Super League) already and I hope he’ll be in a position to score for us and hopefully win the game for us,” said Dooley.

The Yemenis admitted their preparations for this entire WCQ haven’t been ideal.

“The war in Yemen affects everything, including sports,” said coach Ameer Ali Alsunaini, whose wards trained in Qatar instead.

Three players who saw action for Yemen the first time against Phl won’t suit up tonight.

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