Phil Younghusband predicts strong Azkals showing this time
Philippine Azkals striker Phil Younghusband expressed confidence of a strong showing by the national team in the AFC Challenge Cup in the Maldives, stressing that the squad is stronger than the one that finished third two years ago.
But the 26-year-old Loyola Meralco star, who won the Golden Boot as top scorer of the 2012 Challenge Cup in Nepal, was also quick to point out that the other teams in the competition have also improved, making the race for the title and the Asian Cup spot that goes with it wide open.
“All the teams in this tournament are strong and there is no easy game in this competition,” said Younghusband in an interview with maldivessoccer.com upon the team’s arrival in the capital Male.
“We are ready for the competition and we feel quite confident. There are lots of tough teams in the competition and I think any team has a chance of winning Challenge Cup,” added Younghusband, who has 34 goals in 56 matches for the Azkals.
The Azkals kick off their bid in Group B on Tuesday against Afghanistan before taking on Laos on Thursday.
The final group match of the Azkals will be against Turkmenistan on Saturday in Male. Only the top two teams in the group will make the crossover semifinals.
Group A is composed of Maldives, Myanmar, Palestine and Kyrgyzstan. Younghusband said morale in the team is high under coach Thomas Dooley, who replaced Michael Weiss last February.
“The spirit is very good within the players and we know we have to be in our best and we have to be ready,” Younghusband said. “If we take any team lightly and we are not prepared we know that we are going to lose.”
The Azkals lost to Turkmenistan in the semifinals in 2012 before beating Palestine in the third place battle.
But with a squad now bannered by Bundesliga veteran Stephan Schrock, Younghusband feels they could surpass the historic finish in 2012.
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