Azkals seek semifinals vs BurmeseBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
BANGKOK—A familiar foe is standing in the way of the Philippines and a semifinal berth in the AFF Suzuki Cup here Friday.
A dangerous Myanmar (Burma) side—a team that battled the Philippines to tough matches in the past—presents the lone stumbling block for the Azkals in their bid to bring the prestigious tournament to home soil for the first time in history.
Their fate now in their hands after pulling off their first win Tuesday night, the Azkals face the Burmese side in their final group A match at 8:20 p.m. (9:20 p.m. in Manila) at Supachalasai Stadium in downtown Bangkok.
The scenario can become complicated if the Azkals don’t grab the three points against a Myanmar squad, which they have played to a draw three successive times since 2007 when the tournament was also played in the Thai capital.
While a win could seal outright qualification, the Azkals can also advance with a draw provided Thailand beats Vietnam at Rajamangala Stadium in a game scheduled simultaneously with the PH-Myanmar clash.
The Azkals can also advance if they draw with Myanmar and Vietnam only beats Thailand, 1-0, because of the tournament’s tiebreak rule, which is decided by goal difference, goals scored and head-to-head meeting, respectively. The Azkals will advance because they beat Vietnam, 1-0, last Tuesday.
A loss will eliminate the Azkals, who are hoping to play a semifinal game in Manila—a scenario they missed out on in 2010.
“We can’t let this chance slip away,” said defender Rob Gier before the team left the hotel for its training session at the national stadium. “We have to play like we played against Vietnam or even better.”
“The victory over Vietnam puts us in a good position,” said Azkals coach Michael Weiss, who will return to the bench after serving his suspension in the win over Vietnamese. “We should put ourselves in a winning mood so that everything is safe and we don’t have to depend on the result of the other teams.”
The Azkals will be without two players who played key roles in their first two games here—Jerry Lucena, who has returned to his club in Denmark, and Ray Jonsson, who has been sidelined by a right calf strain.
Fully recovered after missing the friendly match against Singapore early this month, Carli de Murga is expected to replace Jonsson. Weiss has yet to reveal who will replace Lucena at midfield.
His options include Chris Greatwich, Jason de Jong and Marwin Angeles.