Desperate Azkals battle VietnamBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
BANGKOK—The urgency to win just went up a notch higher for the Philippines in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Its semifinal hopes hanging by a thread, the Azkals hope to summon the indomitable spirit of 2010 as they take on a formidable Vietnam side tonight on the second matchday of Group A play in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
The Azkals dropped a 1-2 decision to host Thailand Saturday night, leaving them with no recourse but to win their last two matches, starting with the Vietnamese at 6:30 p.m. at the Rajamangala Stadium here.
The Vietnamese have a score to settle against the Azkals, who shamed them, 2-0, at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi in the same competition two years ago. That win propelled the Azkals to their first ever semifinal appearance in the tournament.
Held to a 1-1 draw by Myanmar in its opening match, Vietnam also needs three points to enhance its chances of progressing to the semifinals.
“Both teams will be going for three points and it’s going to be a really tough game again,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami. “I think that every little advantage helps especially the win against them in 2010. I think they’re wary of us and of course, on our part, we respect them and they’ve always been a strong team, but hopefully we will be stronger.”
The Azkals will not have coach Michael Weiss on the bench for the clash after he was suspended for throwing the ball at a fallen Thai player in the late stages of the game Saturday.
Unable to sustain their pressing game after 20 minutes, the Azkals also struggled with their buildup play, resorting to long balls that the Thais found easier to thwart. It wasn’t until Patrick Reichelt came in that the Azkals found their groove as the Fil-German found Paul Mulders for the lone goal.
Weiss has hinted at changes in the starting lineup now that striker Denis Wolf is available for selection after he was sidelined by an ankle injury since Thursday. Creative winger Demitrius Omphroy remains sidelined by an illness.
“We have to really reconsider the lineup,” said Weiss. “I consider this a little bit of a war and we need to find the warriors for the war, the ones who can run and play football, and [strengthen] the cohesiveness of the team. We have members who are not familiar [with our play].
The Azkals have been on a similar situation before, more recently in the AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal last March when they dropped their first match before winning their next two to gain the semifinals.
“We can’t rely on history to give us the result we want,” said Palami. “We need to learn from mistakes.”
“Everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction,” said Rob Gier. “But we always tend to perform well when our backs are against the wall.”
GROUP A TABLE
W D L Pts
Thailand 1 0 0 3
Vietnam 0 1 0 1
Myanmar 0 1 0 1
Philippines 0 0 1 0
6:30 p.m.— Philippines vs Vietnam
9:20 p.m.—Thailand vs Myanmar