There’s still hope
DUBAI—Go for the win and hope for the best.
With three spots in the knockout stage still up for grabs, the Philippines looks to seize its opportunity to make history as it battles a familiar foe in Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday night in their final group match in the AFC Asian Cup at Rashid Stadium here.
With both squads winless after two matches, expect a fiery showdown between the two tournament newcomers with maximum points giving either team a possible ticket to the next round.
South Korea and China have already locked up the two spots in the Azkals’ group, while Bahrain sealed one of the four spots for the best third placers after stunning India, 1-0, with a late goal Tuesday night in Group A in Sharjah.
“We all know there is still a possibility to make it and as long as there’s a possibility we have to fight for it,” said Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson at the pre-match press conference. “I’m sure the players will come out and do everything. The spirit of the team is strong so I’m confident with my players.”
Philippines captain Phil Younghusband said they cannot worry about the scenarios in the other groups.
“We have to focus on ourselves and how we’re going to play,” said Younghusband, who came off the bench in the first two games. “We have no control of the other games so we have to prepare the same way we’ve done in previous games.”
The prospects look bright for the Azkals as long as they beat Kyrgyzstan, which lost its two previous games against the Philippines two years ago. The White Falcons, however, entered the tournament in fine form only to run into strong teams in China and South Korea.
The Azkals put up a creditable showing in a 0-1 loss to South Korea, but absorbed a heavy 3-0 defeat to China. Eriksson said they played better than the scoreline suggested against the Chinese.
But a victory over Kyrgyzstan is just the start if the Azkals want to book a knockout stage berth.
The Azkals need both Jordan and Australia to at least draw with Syria and Palestine so they remain at two points, while the ideal result in Group D would be a win by Yemen over Vietnam or a draw between the two teams also on Wednesday night.
A stalemate between North Korea and Lebanon will also be safe for the Azkals, but a Lebanon victory will dent the Philippines’ chances of going through.
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