‘Crowd will play to Maldives’ advantage’
MANILA – With Maldives getting home town support, the Philippine Azkals expect a “difficult than usual” game against the host team in their semifinal match of the 2014 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup on Tuesday night.
Against Maldives, the Azkals will try to improve from their third-place finish in 2012 and seek their first finals appearance in the Challenge Cup at the National Stadium in Male, Maldives.
“Goal number one for us is obviously to win the Challenge Cup,” Azkals coach Thomas Dooley told ABS-CBN’s TJ Manotoc.
But he admitted it won’t be easy even after they topped the group stage by drawing Afghanistan and beating Laos and Turkmenistan.
Dooley said the home crowd will be a factor that could help the host team, which finished second in their group.
“Obviously, it's a little difficult in the semifinals… to get to play against the home crowd, the home team, they have like 13,000 people behind them so it's kind of a little bit noisy and we’ll be also be pushed a little bit more than in a regular game,” said the German-American coach.
“That's what we have to do, we have to think about and we need to be prepared for that.”
Dooley said Maldives is a difficult team to contend with, especially with its excellent forward in Ali Ashfaq and midfielder Mohammad Umair.
He said the Azkals will have to be very patient in setting up their plays and creating chances to score goals.
“They (Maldives) have No. 7 (Ashfaq) and No. 10 (Umair) and the 3 guys in the midfield are very, very good... the defense is maybe average, when they play defensive minded and I'm pretty sure they drop it back and have it clocked in and they get the ball and go to No. 7,” said Dooley.
“We’ll be patient and knock the ball around nicely. And I'll wait for the moment to get our forwards and our wing players in place, then we’ll not just surprise them but I we think can get some chance to score some goals.”
If the Azkals beat Maldives tonight, they will move on to their first Challenge Cup appearance.
The Philippine squad, however, will be playing minus goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, full-back Dennis Cagara, center-back Juan Guirado and striker Ruben Doctora.
Etheridge, Guirado and Doctora will be sitting out the semifinal stage after sustaining injuries during the group stage.
Cagara, meanwhile, returned to Denmark to assist his team Lyngby’s bid to earn promotion to first division.