No home field edge for PH Azkals, says Phil Younghusband
Having home field advantage in the group stage won’t make this year’s AFF Suzuki Cup any easier than previous editions for the Philippine Azkals.
Phil Younghusband, the Azkals skipper, said the burden of expectations will be greater than ever on the Azkals as they seek to surpass their semifinal appearances in the last three tournaments.
The Azkals are grouped with defending champion Thailand, four-time winner Singapore and Indonesia, which is expected to also come out strong after serving an international ban.
“I don’t think it gets easier for us because the expectation is also greater this time than in the past,” said Younghusband, who will be playing in his fourth Suzuki Cup starting Nov. 19 when the Azkals face the Singaporeans at Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us now (to win). We can’t take our chance for granted anymore.”
The Azkals have three more matches to sharpen up, before their first match starting with the friendly against Bahrain last night at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Younghusband said the matches against North Korea on Monday as well as against Kyrgyzstan on Nov. 9 should be enough for the team to gain confidence ahead of the Suzuki Cup.
While Azkals coach Thomas Dooley seems to have a wealth of attacking talent with Javier Patino expected to play in the tournament, the German-American coach is still looking for the right combinations in defense.
Amani Aguinaldo, who played a key role in the Azkals’ 2014 semifinal run, seems the only sure thing in the back line with the status of Luke Woodland and Simone Rota still uncertain for the tournament.
Woodland still needs clearance from Oldham Athletic to join the Azkals since the Suzuki Cup doesn’t fall in the Fifa international calendar, while Rota is still recovering from a knee injury. Daisuke Sato has ruled himself out of the tournament due to club commitments.
“We will figure things out,” Dooley assured.
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