Match Thursday(Rizal Memorial Stadium)7 p.m. — Philippines vs Vietnam
FOUR months after the Filipinas’ historic feat in the global stage, the Philippine Azkals begin their journey to a targeted spot in the FIFA World Cup (WC).
The Pinoy booters take the first step as they open their campaign in Round 2 of the WC Asian Qualifiers tonight against Vietnam at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Ranged against a familiar regional rival at 7 p.m., the Azkals hope to make full use of home field advantage, especially crowd support, as they eye a winning start in Group F of the qualifiers.
Coach Michael Weiss, who returned June, assembled a team with a mix of experience and youth led by skipper Neil Etheridge for the curtain-raiser against the Vietnamese and the succeeding home game against Indonesia on Tuesday.
“This is now the D-Day for us as far as (getting) the results are concerned from these two games,” said Mr. Weiss in yesterday’s (Nov. 15) pre-match pressconference.
“We are lucky to have Vietnam and Indonesia here at home and we want to spring big surprises on our Southeast Asian neighbors,” he added.
The Philippine Football Federation has organized a campaign to bring in 10,000 supporters to rally the Azkals on.
“This is a very important game for us and it will give us home advantage if we have a big crowd on our side,” said Mr. Etheridge who hopes to recreate the electric atmosphere at a packed Rizal during the good old days in the 2010s.
The 12th man is very much needed as the Azkals brace for a tight duel with the Golden Star Warriors.
“Vietnam is going to this game as the heavy favorite. But they will have a very hard time. And if they want to beat us they really invest in everything. That’s what I can promise, that is what me and Neil demand from the team,” said Mr. Weiss. — Olmin Leyba