Azkals battle debutant Kyrgyz Republic in must-win duel
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Azkals play the biggest game of their lives against fellow debutant Kyrgyz Republic as they try to keep their ambitious bid to reach the AFC Asian Cup Round-of-16 alive tonight at Rashid Stadium in Dubai.

Teetering on the brink after losses to Korea (0-1) and China (0-3), the embattled Pinoy booters seek to make the most of their last chance to possibly qualify for a historic stint in the knockout stage by scoring breakthrough victory in the tournament versus the also winless White Falcons.

With a Top 2 finish and automatic Last-16 berth in Group C already out of reach, the Azkals are hoping to land among the four best third-placed teams across all groups to advance. The Filipinos need maximum points in the 5:30 p.m. fixture (9:30 p.m. in Manila) while hoping that the No. 3 squads in the other brackets will finish with fewer points to have a shot.

“We really want to advance,” said Phl captain Stephan Schrock. “Obviously it’s hard to say now because we have two losses and we haven’t scored. But we want to advance and for that we have to beat Kyrgyzstan to have a small chance.”

The Azkals draw confidence from having already beaten the White Falcons in a pair of friendlies in 2016, 2-1 in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek and 1-0 in the return match in Manila.

“We played them twice the last few years, played them away, played them home and we got two wins,” said striker Phil Younghusband. “But this is a different stage. They may have different players; we have different players, it’s a different arena.”

First-timer in Asia’s showpiece, Kyrgyz also held its ground before yielding to China (1-2) and Korea (0-1) to sit at No. 3 in the group with better goal difference (-2) than Phl (-4).                  

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