MANILA – Former national team stalwart Chieffy Caligdong was part of the last Philippine Azkals squad to play against Maldives in April 2009, in the qualifiers for the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup.
The Azkals lost that game, 2-3, and Caligdong is now hoping that this edition of the Philippine national football team can exact revenge.
"We played Maldives before the last Challenge Cup, we lost," Caligdong said in an interview with Dyan Castillejo of ABS-CBN News. "So sana, makabawi tayo."
The Azkals play Maldives tomorrow evening in the semi-finals of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup. The team has improved greatly from 2009, and momentum is on their side after a 2-0 victory over twice runners-up Turkmenistan in the group stage.
A victory over Maldives tomorrow will propel the Azkals to the Challenge Cup finals, against the winner of the other semi-finals match between Afghanistan and Palestine.
Caligdong has been impressed with the team's performance so far in the Challenge Cup, and praised new coach Thomas Dooley for his unpredictable line-ups.
"The big factor sa team is 'yung lead man, 'yung coach," he said. "Si Coach Dooley, I think he did a good job. Unpredictable kasi lahat ng line-up niya. Every game, hindi mo alam kung sino ang gagamitin niya."
Dooley has also been able to find a potent mix of young players and veterans, Caligdong noted.
"The coach wants to use everyone sa field, and the coach wants to test everyone, kung ano 'yung strength and weakness ng team, individually," he said. "Doon sa game, 'yung mix ng young players at experienced players, 'yun ang pinakamaganda doon."
Caligdong is confident that the Azkals will perform well against Maldives in tomorrow’s game, as he believes that the coaching staff has done its job in scouting the host team.
"The staff also, they have their scouting against Maldives [in the] Myanmar, Kyrgyztan, and Palestine game," he said.
The 2014 AFC Challenge Cup semi-finals match between the Philippines and Maldives will be shown live on ABS-CBN Sports+Action at 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday. -- From a report by Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News.