The Philippines’ National Men’s Football Team (Azkals) is fighting for their semis slot as they battle Thailand in the 2016 AFC Suzuki Cup at the Philippine Sports Stadium tomorrow night.
The Azkals need to place in second for them to advance in the semifinals and a maiden win over powerhouse Thailand will seal their fate into the final four once more. Failure to win does not automatically eliminate the Azkals, but it would let them depend on the Indonesia-Singapore encounter which would have to end in a draw. The stalemate will then need to be coupled by Azkals getting a draw or losing by just one goal.
“It’s the last game for us [in the group]. It is an important one for us because we need to win this game, that’s gonna be a little bit of pressure on the players in the field,” said head coach Thomas Dooley on their upcoming match against Thailand.
Last Tuesday, the Azkals suffered a 2-2 draw against Indonesia, this comes after they also had a goalless draw against Singapore in their opening game last Saturday.
For the Thailand side coached by Kiatisuk “Zico” Senamuang, his team is already in the semis after escaping Singapore 1-0 last Tuesday. Now, they are treating the game against their Filipino counterpart as another dogfight.
“‘Tomorrow’s game is important, Like our last two matches, we will fight this out . In tomorrow’s game we [will] utilize some new players. They are so strong, efficient and balanced team so we will stand up’’ Senamuang echoed.
Zico also issued a challenge for the Azkals, who will play in front of the home crowd tomorrow night.
“The past two games is good. If you want to move to be with us in the next round, you need to beat us tomorrow,” the former Thai national team star, who had three wins against the Philippines as a player, said.
Dooley, on the other side, has high praise for the Azkals despite the two draws their experience for the last two games. “For the last two games, the players showed effort and energy in the field, that’s what you need,” the American mentor added.
Dooley is ready to accept the challenge as the Azkals are not only looking to barge into the semifinals of the Suzuki Cup but also eyeing to win against the Thais for the first time in 44 years.
“I think that motivation is enough against the team we never and we want to beat for the semifinals. Sometimes, anything can happen,” the American mentor said. “When you play like Thailand who is already in the next round [they] then become loose about, strong but not anymore concrete, that could be an easy game.”
“Whenever you see the team, stress and under pressure, you need to be focus 100 percent and visualize the game, your opponent. Give your best quality you had as a player and effort as a team then we had a chance to win. That’s we need to prepare and asked with the players.”
The Philippines-Thailand game is set to take place at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan. Kick off is at 8:00pm, the same time the Indonesia-Singapore match, which will be held at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, will commence.