26 March 2018

Foreign stars add power for Azkals final push

Manila: The Philippines will be at full strength for the crucial AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 qualifying match against Tajikistan as players based abroad will add power to the Azkals squad.

Team manager Dan Palami is delighted that the overseas-based players have answered his call for them to support the bid to qualify for the final stage of the AFC Asian Cup for the first time.

Among those reporting for training this week ahead of the Tajikistan match on March 27 include goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who plays for Welsh club Cardiff City, and Malaysian-based players Ian Ramsay and Misagh Bahadoran.

“We should be proud of our national team players who are doing well internationally in their various clubs,” said Palami.

The Azkals lead Group F of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers on nine points and need only a draw against Tajikistan to confirm their place among the Continent's elite for next January's blockbuster in the United Arab Emirates.

The could have sealed their berth on Matchday Five last November but were held 0-0 by Nepal.

However, with the Tajikistan match being played at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, Philippines will be confident of getting the job done and taking their place in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 draw on May 4.

Palami said the Tajikistan game is an important match for Philippines.

“The cards are not exactly stacked against us. We are currently on top of the table of Group F with nine points,” added Palami.

World No 122 Philippines will prepare for Tajikistan - who are just two rungs below them in the FIFA World Rankings - with a friendly against Fiji, also to be played at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, on Thursday.

The Azkals won the corresponding fixture against Tajikistan, with the tie ending 4-3 in favour of the Philippines at the Republican Central Stadium, Dushanbe on June 13, 2017.


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