Weighing in on the Azkals’ chances in the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifications-A A +A
Friday, March 15, 2013
The AFC Challenge Cup qualifications started last March 2 and lasted until March 6, 2013. Three slots were booked by the respective group winners in Myanmar, Afghanistan and Palestine. They now join host Maldives in the AFC Challenge Cup Finals next year while the four remaining spots are still up for grabs.
The two best runner-ups in the competition so far belong to India and Bangladesh which have 6 points each (2 wins, 0 draw, 1 loss record). A victory earns the team three full points and a draw is good for one point.
What the Philippines needs to secure an outright entry is to score 7 points (2-1-0). They are now waiting for the results in Group B where qualifications are on March 17 while Group E will start the campaign on March 22 with the Philippines hosting the event.
What will be the Philippines’ chances of grabbing that precious ticket to the AFC Challenge Cup finals next year? Here are my thoughts:
Potent Line Up. Coach Hans Michael Weiss knows exactly what is at stake in this tournament and he’s not taking the opposition lightly. Call in resident goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, Roland Muller, solid central back Rob Gier, Ray Jonsson, Dennis Cagara, Jerry Lucena, Paul Mulders, Angel Guirado, the electrifying Stephan Schrock and new player Javier Patinoall coming in from Europe to support the Azkals and this simply shows that the team is aiming for a lofty finish. This is already one of the best Azkals line up in years. Turkmenistan, last year’s Challenge Cup runner up, should be wary of this development.
Raise the Flag. With the Philippines hosting the Group E qualifying at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium, the crowd will definitely play a vital role for the Azkals’ cause. Playing in home turf and with thousands of people rallying behind the team will booster team’s campaign. I foresee that the RMS will be filled to rafters with fans carrying various Azkals memorabilia from giant flags to Filipinos painting their faces in Philippine colors. Please go out and give your loudest cheers for our team, the Philippine Azkals!
Men to Watch. Who will play the biggest role in the Azkals’ line up in this competition? I think this is the biggest surprise of the team, as the opponents will have a hard time finding the right antidote.
Coach Weiss definitely has all the bases covered and he will not let this opportunity slip away. His mind right now is to for the Asian Cup in 2015 and I can’t blame him for preparing this early.
Neil Etheridge will be the man-mountain behind to keep the opponents’ strikers at bay, the midfield players are pretty solid and I would like to see the Azkals play a 4-4-2 formation to keep Phil Younghusband from too much pressure up front.
I am excited to see the potential of striker Javier in the field. Something great is going to happen with this very competitive line up and I will be very proud to see our team, the Azkals, grab that one slot for the AFC Challenge Cup Finals. (Jun-Jun Carballo/Contributor)
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 15, 2013.