THE Philippine national men’s football team takes the pitch anew in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers today, reengaging Yemen in a key match in their group to be played in Doha, Qatar.
Currently the first and second teams, respectively, in Group F, the Philippines (2-1-0), with seven points, and Yemen (1-2-0), with five points, look to secure the full three points in their game to further propel their cause of making the cut for the main tournament of the AFC Asian Cup.
The two teams are coming off a 2-2 draw against one another on Sept. 5, leaving the game at hand with more significance.
“It is a very important game obviously for all of us. If they (Yemen) gonna win, that makes it huge for our goal to qualify in the Asian Cup. If we tie we are still in a good position to qualify. We have two chances to score the necessary points to qualify. If we lose we still have it in our hands to qualify,” said Philippine Azkals coach Thomas Dooley as they prepare for the important game at the Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Stadium set for 11 p.m. (Manila time).
But the Azkals coach is mindful that they will really have to dig deep if they are to win, especially with the myriad of injuries that have hit his players of late.
Javier Patiño, Amani Aguinaldo, Luke Woodland, Misagh Bahadoran and Manny Ott are out of the squad because of injuries and Mr. Dooley is hoping that other players would step up for the team in their place.
“We have a lot of injuries. We have new players here who jumped into our training looking sharp, looking good. We will try to do the best we can and hopefully we have a successful game [against Yemen],” he said.
“Injuries are part of the game and if those happen you try to find ways, solutions to make it right. We have players who, when you talk to them personally, think they can play better and that they should play. This is their chance to show why they should play,” Mr. Dooley added.
Part of the team seeing action today for the Azkals, most of whom are playing in the Philippines Football League, are Carlos de Murga (Ceres Negros FC), Dominic del Rosario (Global Cebu FC) Patrick Deyto (Global Cebu FC), Curt Dizon (FC Meralco Manila), Neil Etheridge (Cardiff City FC), Harry Foll (FC Hansa Rostock), Kevin Ingreso (Ceres Negros FC), Manuel Mike Rigoberto Ott (Angthong United), Stephan Palla (Wolfsberger AC), Iain Ramsay (Ceres Negros FC), Simone Rota (Davao Aguilas FC), Daisuke Sato (AC Horsens), Dennis Villanueva (Global Cebu FC) James Younghusband (Davao Aguilas FC) and Phil Younghusband (Davao Aguilas FC).
In the final round of the qualifiers, format calls for the top two teams in each of the six groups advancing to the main tournament of the AFC Asian Cup, joining 12 other teams that have already qualified earlier.
Tajikistan (1-0-2) and Nepal (0-1-2) are the two other teams in Group F looking to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. They also play today in Tajikistan. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo