Azkals face must-win situation vs Yemen
Philippine Azkals coach Thomas Dooley minced no words on the importance of the World Cup qualifying clash against Yemen Saturday night at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
“If we lose, we’re out,” Dooley curtly said as the Azkals start their uphill climb back into contention for a place in the third and final round of qualifying for the most prestigious tournament in the sport.
A three-match winless spell has put the Filipinos in a tough position of needing to win all their remaining matches in Group H with the challenge beginning against a winless Yemeni side that has given top teams Uzbekistan and North Korea all that it could handle before losing in their previous games.
The Azkals are in third with seven points with North Korea on top with 13 points. Uzbekistan, which is in second with nine points, hosts the North Koreans in Tashkent on Thursday in a match that could also dictate the fate of the Azkals in the competition.
The Azkals still have to face Uzbekistan in March next year before tangling against North Korea in Manila for their last qualifying match on March 29. But coach Thomas Dooley isn’t looking past the Yemenis, who lost 0-1 to North Korea in Pyongyang despite a 12-minute additional time at the end of the second half.
Yemen also held its ground in a 0-1 defeat to Uzbekistan early this year.
“Yemen is absolutely a must win game,” said Dooley. “That should not hinder us from playing our game, and we should not make it too difficult for us. It should push every single one to know how important this game is.”
With Neil Etheridge injured and Phil Younghusband suspended, changes loom in the Azkals’ starting eleven with Stephan Schrock expected to play at attacking midfield and take over as captain, while goalkeeper Roland Muller will make his first appearance in the competition.
“If we don’t show 100 percent from every single player, it will be difficult,” said Dooley.
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