Thursday, July 07, 2011

Palami: Chances slim against Kuwait

WITH their chances of advancing to the third round of the Fifa World Cup qualifiers at “slim to none,” the Philippine men’s football team is back to its familiar role as the underdog.

But for Dan Palami, that’s more than enough.

The Philippines will take on Kuwait, ranked 102nd in the world and No. 11 Asia, in the next round on July 23 in Kuwait and on July 28 in Manila. Palami said the chances are quite slim but that is all they need to attain victory as long as they train with their heart.

“That (being the underdog) has always been our trademark and brand of play,” Palami said.

The Philippine team burst into the international scene when it surprised regional powerhouse teams Singapore, 1-1, and Vietnam, 2-0, to qualify to the semifinal of the Suzuki Cup last year.

They are building on that success by making it to the second round of the World Cup qualifiers for the first time after beating Sri Lanka, 5-1, on aggregate.

However, with the pending suspension of Alexander Borromeo and Stephen Shrock, the already tough task just got tougher.

The two were booked for their second yellow card in the second game against Sri Lanka last Sunday and Fifa rules stipulate that players who earn two yellow cards get a one-game suspension.

The Asian Football Confederation has also notified the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) that the yellow cards earned by the players in the first round will be carried over in the second round.

The PFF is planning to appeal that ruling, including the suspension of Borromeo and Shrock.

Under that rule, James Younghusband, who earned a yellow in the first leg, will be suspended for the home match if he earns another card in the first leg against Kuwait.

Coach Hans Michael Weiss said the ruling puts the Philippines at a disadvantage since it had to play the first round, while Kuwait got seeded in the second round.

The format of the Asian qualifiers has the lowest 16 teams facing off in the first round with the winners joining the 27th-ranked to 6th-ranked teams in the second round of home and away watches. The 15 winners of the second round will join the top 5 Asian countries in the final round.

“I understand him because teams playing in the first round run the risk of having its players getting yellow cards comapred to the teams who are seeded,” said Palami.“Certainly it will be a disadvantage losing them for the next match because they are vital players in the defensive end.”

Though the PFF is planning to appeal the suspension, the coaching staff is already working on the assumption that the two will miss the first leg and have called Ray Jonsson and Jerry Lucena, who missed the first round, to active duty.

The training of the Azkals will resume on Friday and the team will fly to Bahrain on July 12.

According to Palami, there will be no changes in the training and they will just work on a strategy to deal with the formidable and experienced Kuwait team.

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