Kuwait Al-Azraq confident vs Philippine Azkals
KUWAIT—Kuwait is heading into its second round World Cup Qualifying duel with the Philippines Saturday night high on confidence and coach Goran Tufegdzic believes his squad’s experience will spell the difference in the match.
Speaking to Filipino reporters, Tufegdzic acknowledged the Philippine Azkals as a “good team that’s still in a development stage.”
“From what I saw, I think the Philippine team needs more experience,” said the Serbian, who steered Kuwait to qualification in the 2011 Asian Cup and to the Gulf Cup of Nations title last year.
Kuwait, also known as the Al-Azraq, started preparing for the two-leg duel against the Azkals last June 23, undergoing camps here and in Lebanon, where they beat the hosts, 6-0, in a fight-marred duel.
But the confidence boost they needed came when they bested formidable Middle East teams in Saudi Arabia and Iraq in a four-nation tournament in Amman, Jordan last week.
Bader Al-Muhtwa is the leading scorer among the active players in the national squad with 36 goals in 106 matches. But Tufegdzic said the 26-year-old striker is hobbled by injury and will be a game-time decision.
While the Azkals are competing for a spot in football’s showpiece event for the first time since 2001, Kuwait was seeded into the second round this year, owing to its better International Football Federation (Fifa) ranking at 102. The Al-Azraq also reached the third round of qualifying for the 2010 edition of the tournament.
“Generally our team is the favorite, but we must prove on the field,” Tufegdzic, who has been handling the Al-Azraq the past three years, added.
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