22 July 2011

‘Trust the Azkals’

AS THE Philippine football team reprises its underdog role against Kuwait in the second round of the Fifa World Cup qualifiers, local coaches believe there’s only a slim chance for a victory.

Kuwait is among the strongest teams in Asia and football experts agree they hold the advantage against the Philippines.

“Slim ang chance pero pwede na mahitabo na madaog gihapon ta. Ang bola lingin, dili pwede mawala atong paglaum,” said Little Azkals coach Oliver Colina, who was once part of the Under 23 training pool.

Colina, who has been coaching the 13-Under team since 2009, said whatever the results in the away game, the Philippines will bounce back in the second leg in the country.

“The Azkals are the Azkals. We need to trust our Azkals, we need to support them
whatever happens,” he said.

Colina believed that the Azkals’ performance should be consistent with their last game, where they were more on the offensive.

On the other hand, Cebu Football Association board member and University of Southern Philippines–Foundation Coach Eleazar Toledo predicted that the squad will focus on defensive strategies in the opponent’s turf.

“Kuwait, based on history and statistics, is a strong team but then again, we can’t give up. They won’t play loose on us, they will play tight against the Philippines,” Toledo said.

He believes that the Azkals should focus more on defense, particularly on team blocking, and guard possible attackers in the middle from going close to the goal.

“In an away game, we have to hold it for the whole 90 minutes, and ari na sa Pilipinas mubanat sa second game,” Toledo said.

He also mentioned that a draw will still be a good result but if the Azkals can score, it will be better.

“If we can hold on until the end, then we can have a good chance in the home game, which is a big factor. But we can never tell because Kuwait is an attack-oriented team,” Toledo said.

And with Aly Borromeo and Stephan Shrock missing the first leg, Toledo thinks Paul Mulders and Rob Gier will replace the booked players.

Borromeo and Shrock got two yellow cards in the first round and got one-game suspensions. The Philippines filed an appeal and the Asian Football Confederation granted it. However, Fifa, which has the final say, denied the AFC decision and upheld the original one-game ban.

Both coaches believed that in the away game, a draw will do for the national team. They can have the chance to redeem themselves in the home game in front of a cheering Filipino crowd at the Rizal Stadium.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 23, 2011.

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