Azkals eye revenge against Turkmenistan
MANILA, Philippines -- While the Philippine men's football squad's main objective is to qualify for the main draw of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, the Azkals have also set their sights at getting revenge against 2012 semifinal tormentor and two-time runner-up Turkmenistan during the Group E qualifiers.
After a 25th minute goal by Phil Younghusband gave the Philippines an unlikely 1-0 advantage over Turkmenistan in the 2012 Challenge Cup semifinals, the Azkals seemed headed for an improbable trip to the championship match when disaster struck in the final 10 minutes.
A crucial defensive lapse in the 80th minute paved the way for forward Amanov Arslanmyrat to score the equalizer for the Green Men.
Six minutes later, another defensive miscue by the Azkals led to midfielder Chonkayev Gahrymanberdi scoring the goal that gave Turkmenistan the 2-1 victory and more importantly, a second consecutive trip to the final against eventual champion North Korea.
The loss to Turkmenistan was a painful lesson to the Azkals that a game is never totally over until the final whistle, but hopefully there will a different result this time around with the Group E qualifiers held on Philippine soil.
Few remember that the Azkals were missing the services of two starters during the last match against Turkmenistan as midfielders Angel Guirado and James Younghusband sat out the semifinal after incurring two yellow cards in the group stage.
Barring suspensions or injuries, Guirado and Younghusband will be available when the Azkals play the rematch against Turkmenistan at Rizal Memorial Football Stadium on March 26 in what could be the match that determines who will reach the main draw in Nepal next year.
The group winner automatically advances to the main draw.
Turkmenistan, who has never lost to the Philippines in two meetings (the Green Men also beat the Azkals, 5-0, during the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers), are returning 13 players from the 2012 line-up as well as head coach Hojageldiyev Yazguly
The Philippines has not released its final 22-man line-up for the Challenge Cup qualifiers, but the Azkals will likely field its strongest team in history as Bundesliga veteran Stephan Schrock will be available along with other foreign-based players like Neil Etheridge, Roland Muller, Dennis Cagara, Jerry Lucena, and Rob Gier.
Moreover, the Azkals are ready to unveil much-publicized Filipino-Spanish striker Javier Patiño.
The 25-year old Patiño, who has seen action in the Spanish second division, has scored 11 goals in 62 appearances with Cordoba and is expected to provide another scoring threat up top together with Phil Younghusband.
All matches of the Philippine Azkals in the AFC Challenge Cup. will be aired live on Studio 23 starting 7 p.m. Tickets are available at Ticketworld outlets or at ticketworld.com.ph.