Saturday, March 10, 2012

Azkals face India

(This is the draft of my report for Sun.Star Cebu on March 11)
THE Philippines will gun for that much needed win, when it takes on India in their second game of the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in Nepal today.

The Philippines lost its opening match to reigning champion North Korea, 2-0, and will be taking on the 2008 champions India which also lost its opening match, 2-0, to Tajikistan.

North Korea and Tajikistan share the lead with three points each, while India and the Philippines are at the bottom after their opening day losses.

As the lowest ranked team in the group, the Philippines will again be banking on the solid play of Fulham keeper Neil Etheridge as it tries to keep the Indians strikers at bay.

“Once again, it’s a do or die situation, we must win our next game,” Philippine national team manager Dan Palami said. “But we’ve been in this situation before and I know the boys will play with their hearts out.”

The Azkals surely showed their hearts in their opening day loss to North Korea, which made the world Cup finals in South Africa in 2010, holding the defending champions to a scoreless draw in the first half.

However, two lapses in the second half allowed North Korea to take the opening day win.

The Philippines’ play also earned a good review from North Korean coach Yun Jong-Su, who expects the Philippines to do well against India and Tajikistan.

“I would not be suprised if they cause problems to the other teams in the group,” Yun told the AFC official website.

The Azkals, which drew India, 1-1, in the 2006 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, have also reviewed the tape of the India vs. Tajikistan game to get a feel of their rivals.

“We watched the tape of the India match and we ere quite optimistic.  We have identified the strategy we could use against them,” Palami said.

Aside from Etheridge, Kaya FC defender Jason Sabio had an exemplary stint against North Korea, while Loyola Meralco Sparks James and Phil Younghusband also showed their hustle in the offensive end.

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