Azkals take on lightweight Laos in last friendly
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Azkals go up against lighweight Laos in the final stop of their three-nation ASEAN tour tonight in Vientiane's National Stadium, their confidence boosted by their recent 2-0 victory over long-time tormentor Singapore.
The No. 150 Azkals take on the 193rd -ranked Thim Xad at 7 p.m., seeking to dish out the fierce form that enabled them to topple the Lions for the first time since 1972 in Singapore last Friday.
"Even though it's only a friendly and at the end of the day, it doesn't really mean that much, it's good for our confidence and team morale. After that game, our confidence should be sky-high," said Fil-British defender Rob Gier, who also serves as the team's scout.
Gier, however, cautioned fans against expecting the Azkals to just steamroll their lower-ranked oppositions.
"It's going to be a totally different game. We're not at that stage wherein we beat Singapore and then we're already expected to go and thump Laos, five, six, seven-nil. It doesn't happen like that," he said.
The Azkals will face the Laotians without three players who starred in their win over Singapore – Phil and James Younghusband and Jerry Lucena. The Younghusbands were excused from the game on the occasion of their mother’s first death anniversary while Lucena left due to a commitment with Danish Superliga side Esbjerg fB.
"Unfortunately, we will miss the game against Laos but this is an important day for our family and we have spoken with management and they understand," said James.
The brothers assured their continuing commitment to the team.
"We remain fully committed to the national team and look forward to rejoining them in other preparations for the Suzuki Cup late this year," said Phil, one of the goal-scorers against Singapore.
The Azkals, though, will still parade Fil-German Stephan Schrock, whose highly efficient performance at midfield carried the Pinoys past the Lions.
"We have to say that Schrock is in a totally different level, playing in the first division Bundesliga. In recent years, we've never seen a player like Schrock playing for the country," said Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta.
Neil Etheridge, Denis Wolf, Paul Mulders will also be around for the game, the third and last friendly in the Azkals' three-nation ASEAN tour. The Azkals earlier played Cambodia to a goal-less draw in Phnom Penh before nipping Singapore.
"We'll be happy with any kind of result. If we go through these three games without conceding a goal, I'll be happy," said Gier.