MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine national football team looks to recharge its 2014 AFC Challenge Cup campaign when the Azkals take on Laos Thursday at the Hithadhoo Stadium in Addu City, Maldives.
The Azkals had to settle for a goalless draw in their tournament debut against Afghanistan early Wednesday morning, but are hoping to put on a better performance against Laos.
Laos is coming off a 1-5 loss to Turkmenistan and languish at the bottom of the standings in Group B.
"We played badly in the first 15 or 20 minutes, and we couldn’t connect with each other. I think the players were a bit nervous on the field," Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said after their game against Afghanistan, as quoted by the AFC website.
"But after 15 minutes, we connected with each other and in the second half, we got into the game and started to play the game we wanted to play. We had a couple more chances than them, but I am sure they are not happy how they played, and we are not happy how we played," he added.
Stephan Schrock failed to score for the Azkals, although at least two of his attempts came close.
The Azkals will be boosted by the return of striker Phil Younghusband and skipper Rob Gier, both of whom were suspended for the Afghanistan match. Paul Mulders is also available to play for the team.
"We will take every game as it comes. We need to beat Laos, and then we need to beat Turkmenistan," Dooley said in a separate AFC report. "The players got more confident in the last game, but we did not play well at the back, and that is something we need to change."
Laos coach Norio Tsukitate, for his part, said they do not have a "special plan" for the Azkals but will instead focus on the basics.
"I cannot change the tactics, I cannot change the physical, (and) I cannot change the technique," he said. "I can control, a little bit, the mentality."
"We need to continue the basics in attack, defense, and transition as our basics are strong."
This will be the 10th meeting between Laos and the Philippines. Their last encounter was a 2-1 win for Laos that was later nullified by FIFA.
The Azkals’ best result against Laos was a 2-2 draw during the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers. They have yet to beat Laos in a competitive match.
The match will be aired live at 6:30 p.m. on ABS-CBN Sports+Action.