BANGKOK, Thailand – It’s do-or-die for the Azkals.
Buoyed by Chieffy Caligdong’s late winner in the 1-0 victory over Vietnam last Tuesday, November 27, the Philippine national team now set their sights in securing the second semifinal spot as they face Myanmar Friday, 9:20pm (Manila time) at the Supachalasai Stadium.
The Azkals are coming off a crucial win against Vietnam that kept their Suzuki Cup title hopes alive, but they must win one more game to stay in the tournament.
(Read: The Azkals phenomenon and the 2012 Suzuki Cup)
Much of the Philippine team stays intact for the Myanmar game, except for a few changes. Midfielder Jerry Lucena, who started in both of the Azkals’ first two games, has returned to his Danish football club and will be unable to play with the team for the rest of the tournament. Additionally, important defender Ray Jonsson will be replaced by Carli de Murga in the starting lineup, as the former nurses an injury.
Head coach Michael Weiss acknowledges the toughness of the Myanmar team, but remains confident in his squad’s chances.
Here’s what you need to know about the face-off:
1) The Philippines have never defeated Myanmar
The Myanmar White Angels, semifinalists in 2004, have been a repeated thorn for the Philippines several times now, and have already won 6 times over the Azkals in their past 9 meetings. The two teams have had 3 draws.
Their last two meetings ended in a draw, the first in 2010, a scoreless draw in Vietnam that saw the Philippines advancing to the semifinals despite close chances from both sides.
The second was during the qualifying rounds of the AFC Challenge Cup where the Philippines were already on course for their first victory against Myanmar thanks to a James Younghusband penalty kick midway in the second half. However, a last minute equalizer for Myanmar via a free kick allowed them to salvage a point.
Will this be the Philippines’ first win over the relentless Myanmar side?
2) Myanmar is one of the best in the region
The country had their golden age during the 1950’s and 60’s that saw them dominate in the Asian games and also a rare runner-up finish in the AFC Asian Cup.
They are currently ranked 4th in Southeast Asia by FIFA. The Philippines is ranked 2nd.
Myanmar qualified to the group stages after winning all of their matches in the qualifying rounds, en route to a top spot finish that saw them going to Group A along with hosts Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Before the actual group stages, Myanmar had decent preparation winning 3 of their 4 qualifying round fixtures and drawing their final fixture against Laos, who also qualified.
3) Myanmar is seeking redemption
Come the group stages, Myanmar shocked Vietnam as midfielder Kyi Lin scored from the penalty spot to nail a 1-1 scoreline.
Three days later however, they were heavily humbled by hosts Thailand with a 4-0 victory. Thai striker Teerasil Dangda scored a hat-trick en route to the victory, which also saw the hosts advancing to the semifinals.
After the embarrassing loss to Thailand, Myanmar is expected to leave it all out on the field and redeem themselves against the Philippines.
4) Kyi Lin is a threat
Surprisingly, Myanmar decided to lean on their younger players to lead their side to victory in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
One player that is on the radar of Weiss is young midfielder Kyi Lin, who scored against Vietnam.
(See his goal against Vietnam below):
The 20-year-old midfielder is expected to give the defense a hard time with his superior passing skills to feed striker Yan Paing in the penalty area, as he has shown in their matches against Vietnam and Thailand.
Weiss has said the Azkals will make sure not to give Lin the depth he needs to make his deadly runs.
5) A victory is crucial for both teams
A win by the Azkals will confirm their slot in the semifinals regardless of the result between hosts Thailand and Vietnam – but Myanmar also needs a win to even have the possibility of making it through.
Should the Philippines draw against Myanmar, they will have to hope that Vietnam draws against Thailand to advance.
A loss for the Philippines will send them out crashing of the competition.
Myanmar on the other hand cannot afford neither a draw nor a loss. If they win, they will have to depend on the outcome of the Thailand-Vietnam match. A draw or a Thailand win will see them go through, while a Vietnam win may see them bidding goodbye to the competition, depending on goal difference. – Rappler.com
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