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MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Azkals head coach Hans Michael Weiss admitted feeling the pressure to deliver a victory or at least a point as they look to close out a two-game home stand on a high note.
After opening their campaign in the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualifiers with a 2-0 loss to Vietnam, the Azkals hope to bounce back against Indonesia on Tuesday, November 21, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
“There’s pressure for sure. There’s big pressure, that’s for sure,” said Weiss.
“The [Indonesia] game will be very important as far as that is concerned. The result is one thing, the loss against Vietnam is also one thing, but the performance for me was very good.”
Although acknowledging that the Azkals are not as fancied as the other teams in Group F, which also includes Iraq, Weiss simply wants his wards to be more consistent after expressing satisfaction in their performance against Vietnam.
“The performance was top and I want to have a similar performance tomorrow – even better because the team is growing more and more and more,” said Weiss.
“We have certain stability in the team, we are not changing five players, eight players, and then bring another eight, this and that. We have a certain cohesion now in the group and I’m always positive because I know what I’m doing and I know the next steps ahead.”
Azkals defender Christian Rontini said he and his teammates should capitalize on their home turf advantage as they look to repay Filipino fans in attendance with a quality game.
“For our mental approach to the [Indonesia] game, we have to start strong. We have to start exactly from the first minute of the game. We have to let them understand that we play home,” said Rontini.
“Tomorrow is another challenge, it’s another story, another game, so we just need to go inside the field, bring the heart and passion for the flag.”
Over 10,000 fans attended the clash between the world No. 138 Azkals and No. 94 Vietnam at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, but it was the visitors who grabbed the victory as Nguyen Van Toan and Nguyen Dinh Bac scored a goal each to silence the Filipino crowd.
The Vietnamese’s away win over the Azkals catapulted them to second place in Group F with 3 points and a +2 goal difference, while the Azkals tumbled to third place with 0 points and a -2 goal difference.
World No. 68 Iraq has 3 points and a +4 goal difference and currently sits on top of Group F after its victory over No. 145 Indonesia, which occupies the bottom spot with 0 points and a -4 goal difference.
Only the top two teams from each group are awarded with an outright berth to the third round of the joint qualifiers, while the bottom two squads will proceed to another qualification phase in order to advance to the next round.
Although the odds are against them playing on the road, Indonesia’s Rafael Struick remains optimistic.
“After a loss, okay, it happens in football, maybe it was a bad loss, but we move on now,” said Struick.
“We have good qualities in our team so the confidence is high for the team, maybe a little bit pressure because we lost the first game.” – Rappler.com