MANILA, Philippines – Kuwait football team coach Goran Tufegdzic predicts his squad’s experience will be key to overcoming the Philippine football team in their second round World Cup qualifying clash slated Saturday at the Qadisiya Sports Club in Hawally in Kuwait.
Speaking to the Kuwaiti press after the team’s practice, the Serbian mentor said his side is “definitely ready for the tough but exciting game” after holding training camps in Lebanon and Jordan the past three weeks.
“We have an edge over them (Azkals) in terms of experience. Two of our players are very strong and the team is ready for this,” Tufegdzic told the Kuwait Times Wednesday.
The Azraq, Kuwait’s moniker, has a wealth of experience tucked under its belt.
Azraq, a Middle East powerhouse, made the World Cup finals once in 1982, ruled the Asian Cup once in 1980, and achieved its highest FIFA ranking in December 1998 at No. 24.Despite its success in the international scene and superior skills, the 10-time and reigning Gulf Cup champion is not taking the Azkals for granted.
“While I definitely favor my team, I highly respect thePhilippine football team, as well. They are also a strong, tough contender,” Tufegdzic said of the Azkals, who arrived in Kuwait Tuesday night.
The Azraq, which is 57 spots higher than the Azkals (159) in the current rankings, is fresh from topping a four-nation tournament (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Iraq) in Jordan, which served as part of its buildup for the opening game of the two-leg series set at 7:30 p.m. (12:30 a.m., July 24, Manila time).
In contrast, the Azkals are reeling from consecutive friendly match defeats against the Bahrain Under-23 Olympic team (1-2, 1-3), although German coach Michael Weiss remains upbeat about the prospect of Filipinos pulling off an upset.
“Those were tough loses, but it only made us stronger,” said Weiss, who is hoping the Azkals will be able to adjust to the sweltering condition in Kuwait.
Although the game will be played at night, players are expected to bring in extra towels owing to the extremely hot night time condition, which is seen to range between 38 and 42 degrees Celsius.
Meanwhile, Azkals team manager Dan Palami said Rob Gier, Ray Jonsson and goalie Neil Etheridge will be coming over in the next two days for Kuwait game. Fil-Dutch Paul Maulders is still doubtful of his stint due to infection to his leg wound. (Francis Santiago)
Source : Tempo