Philippine Azkals in must-win vs Indians
KATHMANDU—Faced with a must-win scenario, the Philippines tries to switch to a more attack-minded approach Sunday when it battles former champion India in its second match in the AFC Challenge Cup here.
The Azkals yielded to a vastly superior North Korean side, 0-2, Friday, but are taking heart at the fact that they kept the defending champions at bay for long periods.
India, which ruled the tournament in 2008 and a qualifier to the 2011 Asian Cup, also fell to another former winner, Tajikistan, 0-2, in the other group B match.
Because of the outcome of their first-day matches, both the Philippines and India can no longer afford to drop points in the match set at 5 p.m. (7:15 p.m. in Manila) at the Dashrath Stadium.
Against India, though, the Azkals believe they can afford to be more adventurous in attack compared to the match against the North Koreans, who were simply superb at keeping the ball and creating scoring chances.
“We have to play more offensively,” said coach Michael Weiss, who got a brief overview on India’s style of play from Tajikistan’s Bosnian coach Kemal Alispahic over breakfast Saturday.
“We just have to be confident at keeping the ball,” said James Younghusband, who skippered the side against North Korea.
“It’s a big game for us,” said striker Phil Younghusband. “It’s difficult playing catch-up and have a difficult sequence of games. But we can get our confidence back if we win.”
The Azkals will face Tajikistan in their final group match on Tuesday.
Tajikistan faces North Korea in the other match Sunday. Only the top two sides advance to the semifinals.
One thing going for the Azkals is the return of both Chieffy Caligdong and Rob Gier from injuries that have sidelined them over the past month.
Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who made a string of spectacular saves against North Korea, is also cleared to play despite a hurting right wrist, while Fil-Dutch midfielder Jason de Jong was scheduled to arrive last night to beef up the side.
Gier and Caligdong, who have been part of the regular starting crew the past few years, came in as second-half substitutes against North Korea.
“I’m just excited to get back out there and help the team with my experience,” said Gier.
Caligdong, the co-skipper, could make his first start since January against India, which captured the South Asian title late last year and impressed despite a 0-4 loss to German powerhouse Bayern Munich in an exhibition match.
India coach Savio Medeira, who watched the first 30 minutes of the Philippines-North Korea match, said he saw “a good pressurizing side, who gives a lot of time for opponents to get the ball.”
“They just fight for every ball,” said Medeira of the Azkals.
Medeira is also hoping for an improved performance from his side particularly with skipper Sunil Chhetri, the hero of India’s title conquest four years ago, who struggled against Tajikistan in his first match back from an ankle injury two months ago.
Azkals manager Dan Palami is optimistic that the Azkals can overcome India.
“We have been in this situation many times and I’m quite confident that the players can deliver in a must-win match,” said Palami.