PH Azkals ready to attack North Korea
INCHEON—Riding high on their fighting performance in the 0-1 loss against powerhouse Uzbekistan last Thursday, the Philippine Azkals return home brimming with confidence as they face North Korea for their last World Cup Qualifying match at Rizal Memorial Stadium on Tuesday.
The Azkals are in a strong position to avoid a playoff for a third round spot in Asian Cup Qualifying even if they finish fourth in Group H. But that doesn’t mean coach Thomas Dooley’s side will take the clash for granted.
“This is another very important game that I’m trying to get in the head of the players,” said Dooley. “Against North Korea, we need to play football. We need to attack.”
Led by a standout performance from goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, the Azkals’ collective grit and resilience came to the fore last Thursday, frustrating the Uzbeks for long periods before ultimately falling, 0-1. The Azkals played the last 80 minutes with 10 men after OJ Porteria was sent off.
“I am confident that after this game, with Neil’s outstanding performance against Uzbekistan, the defense knows now how to get the effort in to get a result,” said Dooley, whose team held North Korea to a scoreless draw in Pyongyang last October.
Uzbekistan coach Samvel Babayan said the Azkals are capable of giving North Korea problems with their play.
“I think their level is the same with North Korea at the moment,” said Babaylan whose team can clinch top spot in the group if North Korea loses to the Philippines.
Stephan Schrock, Phil Younghusband and Kevin Ingreso remain sidelined due to injuries, but Dooley will have Misagh Bahadoran and Manny Ott back from suspension.
“If we beat them at home, it will be a great milestone for us. We can play with confidence that we can beat big teams in the future,” said Dooley.
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