MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals took control of their group in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers and will need only a draw against Turkmenistan on Tuesday to advance to next year’s finals in Maldives.
Led by Stephan Schrock and Phil Younghusband, the full-strength Azkals throttled Cambodia, 8-0, in their game last Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium to vault to the top of Group E.
Turkmenistan had battered Cambodia, 7-0, in their game last Friday, also at Rizal.
“We are in the driver’s seat,” said Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss in the post-match press conference. “I think we showed that we are dominant here on the pitch and we also want to do that against Turkmenistan.”
The top teams in each group will advance to the finals in Maldives, along with the two best second-placed squad. Host Maldives, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Palestine and Kyrgyztan have already qualified.
While Weiss said the Azkals “obviously want to win every match,” he may wind up changing tactics for the Turkmenistan match.
“We will be a little bit more reserved, but of course go for the win, but with smart tactics,” said Weiss.
Turkmenistan broke the Azkals’ hearts when they met in the semi-finals of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal with two late goals, but the Filipinos believe they are better prepared this time around.
“It shows they can be afraid of us. I mean, they are a good team and they put seven (past Cambodia), and we showed that we’re a good team and we scored eight,” said Younghusband, who scored four of the Azkals’ goals.
“I think we showed them that we’re going to be a very difficult team to beat, and I think we’re in a good position now going into the next game,” he added.
Thanks to their goal-fest against Cambodia, the Azkals can lose by seven goals and still qualify to the main draw. Turkmenistan, meanwhile, can lose by six goals and still qualify to Maldives as well.
The Philippines’ best finish in the Challenge Cup came last year, when they defeated Palestine, 4-3, in a thrilling match for third place.
Kick off will be at 7:30 p.m.