Philippines draws Afghanistan in Challenge Cup

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014


THE Philippines opened up its campaign in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup with a scoreless draw with South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) champion Afghanistan yesterday at the Hithadhoo Stadium in Maldives.

Even though both teams settled to a scoreless draw, there were occasions in which both sides were close to breaking the deadlock.

James Younghusband was a few inches away from scoring a goal after his header from a cross by Martin Steuble bounced off the crossbar.

“The first match in any tournament is the most important. It wasn’t the most exciting match,” Azkals coach Thomas Dooley told the AFC Challenge Cup website. “We played badly in the first 15 or 20 minutes and we couldn’t connect with each other. I think the players were a bit nervous on the field. But after 15 minutes we connected with each other and in the second half we got into the game and started to play the game we wanted to play.”

Afghanistan almost stole the match away from the Azkals in stoppage time after skipper Haroon Fakhrudin also hit the crossbar with a header.

“We had a couple more chances than them, but I am sure they are not happy how they played and we are not happy how we played,” said Dooley.

Turkmenistan is at the top of the table of Group B with three points after a convincing 5-1 win over Laos. The Philippines and Afghanistan are tied at the second spot with a point each, while Laos is at the bottom.

The Philippines will face Laos today at the Hithadhoo Stadium, while Afghanistan takes on Turkmenistan.

The top two teams of Group A and Group B will move on the knockout semifinals round.

The winner of the AFC Challenge Cup earns the last remaining spot in Group D along with Iraq, Jordan and defending champions Japan in the AFC Asian Cup in Australia next year.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 22, 2014.

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