THE Philippine men’s football team looks to pounce on a young Chinese Taipei squad as it opens its title defense of the Philippine Football Federation Peace Cup on Wednesday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Azkals parade a much older, experienced squad than the one the Taiwanese are fielding in the 7 p.m. encounter.
“The team is very young,” Chinese Taipei coach Chen Kuei Jan said of his squad through an interpreter. “This is a chance for them to get competitive action.”
The Filipino booters are also ranked 128th, 51 spots higher than the Taiwanese, who are coming in as the lowest-ranked side in the four-nation pocket tournament.
That could allow the Azkals to test different formations.
Usually employing a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 formation, the Azkals tried out a 3-5-2 look in the first half of their friendly with United Football League champion Global last week.
The Azkals looked comfortable using both formations as they cruised to a 3-1 win.
“We have to play what the coach tells us to play,” Azkals skipper Rob Gier said, referring to former US World Cup captain Thomas Dooley. “We have to have faith and trust in the coach that he believes what the best formation is for us to win.”
“And we have that trust in coach Dooley,” the Filipino-British center-back was quick to add. “We trust that he makes the right decisions.”
The Azkals hope to employ the winning formation against a Chinese Taipei side that stunned the Filipinos, 1-0, in last year’s edition.
So the Azkals have an axe to grind as they are eager to advance to the finale where they could face the winner of the 4 p.m. match between Palestine and Myanmar.
“I’m always confident in this team,” Gier said. “I’ve honestly believed that we can go on to do really amazing things with this squad of people. And I don’t see any reason why we can’t win this tournament.”