MANILA, Philippines - Forced to a 3-3 standoff by Hong Kong in their debut, the Philippine Azkals eye no less than a victory today against host Chinese-Taipei to boost their bid for the top plum in the 2011 Long Teng Cup in Kaohsiung, Chinese-Taipei.
The draw gave the Filipinos a point, leaving them no choice but to gun for a maximum two points against the Taiwanese in the single-round-robin tournament among four nations. The hosts whitewashed Macau, 3-0, in their first match Friday night.
"We will be in a very good position to win the tournament if we win today," said Azkals coach Michael Weiss.
For them to do so, it is imperative for the Azkals to improve on their defense.
"Our defending (against Hong Kong) was all over the place," said skipper Aly Borromeo. "But at least, there's familiarity now. We know how we will play together. We can't let Chinese-Taipei get that confidence unlike against Hong Kong."
A mix of veterans and members of the U-23 pool, the Azkals struggled with new combinations against the Hong Kong booters, who pounced on Phl's shortcomings to score two early goals.
The Azkals got the opportunity to pull off a come-from-behind win when Phil Younghusband scored on a penalty kick and Chieffy Caligdong hit two astounding strikes before limping off the field in the 79th minute. But a late goal by Hong Kong forced the standoff.
Caligdong said he'll be ready for the Chinese-Taipei matchup but one of the Azkals won't be seeing action in Jason de Jong, who's suspended for a red card in the HK duel.
"We will sit a little a bit deeper (on defense) and will be looking for counter-attacks. I hope everybody steps up, especially in terms of alertness and concentration," Weiss said.