Azkals open Suzuki Cup bid vs Laos today
HANOI—Laos may be considered the weakest side in Group A of the AFF Suzuki Cup, but Philippines coach Thomas Dooley quickly dismissed the argument as he prepared his Azkals for a tough opening-day assignment at My Dinh Stadium here Saturday.
A back-to-back semifinalist in the tournament, the Azkals are heavy picks in the 4 p.m. kickoff (5 p.m. in Manila) against a Laos side that only made the final round as the second-best team in the qualifying event.
Host Vietnam and another title favorite, Indonesia, square off later at 7 p.m.
The Azkals beat the Laotians, 2-0, in the group stage of the AFC Challenge Cup in the Maldives last May, but the youthful side coached by David Booth has gained plenty of experience since then.
“Laos is a team I fear,” Dooley said. “I’m very anxious about this game. We have to play our game and perform.”
Azkals manager Dan Palami stressed the importance of the team getting off to a good start as matches against Indonesia and Vietnam come next.
“We have to get our confidence and our rhythm early,” said Palami.
Although he limped off in the friendly against Cambodia last week, Rob Gier said he’s fit to play just like Martin Steuble who suffered a minor knock last week.
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