Azkals hardpressed to win vs Tajikistan after China drubbing
GUANGZHOU – The heavy 1-8 defeat to China last Wednesday night only cranked up the pressure on the Philippines to secure a victory against Tajikistan in AFC Asian Cup Qualifying in Dushanbe next week.
But the Azkals will be missing key personnel for the match as leftback Jeffrey Christiaens and winger Pika Minegishi were omitted from the squad of coach Thomas Dooley before the trip to the Tajik capital via Urumqi last Friday.
Christiaens complained of swelling on his knee after the match. Misagh Bahadoran, who scored the lone goal for the Azkals at Tianhe Stadium, initially thought he had reinjured his knee after limping off against China, but tests showed it was only a minor knock, which he can recover from in time for the Tajikistan game.
James Younghusband sustained a sprain ankle early against China and had to be substituted. The Azkals’ defensive frailties were exposed by China and skipper Phil Younghusband vowed they won’t allow themselves to be caught in the same situation again.
“If we play like we did against China then we’ll struggle to get a result in Tajikistan,” said Azkals skipper Phil Younghusband. “Winning Tajikistan was a must before the China game and moreso now because we need to get the result of (China) out of our heads.”
On the back of a busy schedule in the Philippines Football League, the Azkals only had two training sessions under coach Thomas Dooley before the battled China in the friendly which also saw the Azkals mentor give newcomer Camelo Tacusalme playing time at centerback.
“I was pretty much lost for words in terms of the result,” said Phil Younghusband. “We were quite embarrassed to be honest, but we have to be positive because there were some good things in the game and also things we need improve on.”
Younghusband said the China match showed the gap in level at the moment and how much work should be done for the Azkals, “if thats the level we want to be.”
But the Azkals captain stressed that the more important game will be against Tajikistan on Tuesday at Central Republican Stadium in Dushanbe. Another win will keep the Azkals on top of Group H.
“We never want to be in this position again and we need to take what we learn and not make those same mistakes against Tajikistan,” said Younghusband.
“This (loss to China) doesn’t harm our chances of making the Asian Cup. Emotionally and mentally it affects us, but in terms of reaching our goal, it doesn’t affect us. We know that if we can get a good result in Tajikistan that we’re a step closer to reaching our goal.”
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