THE Philippine men’s football team tries to move closer to winning its first international championship in almost a century as it takes on Macau on Thursday night at the resumption of the Philippine Football Peace Cup at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The national booters, whose last international title came in the Far Eastern Games in Manila in 1913, repulsed Guam, 1-0, at the start of the four-nation tournament on Tuesday.
Filipino-German midfielder Patrick Reichelt starred for the Azkals against Guam with his late header that propelled the squad to the early lead with three points. Macau and Chinese Taipei, who battled to a 2-2 stalemate also last Tuesday, are tied in second place with a point each.
The Azkals hope to strengthen their hold on the top spot as they face the Macanese at 7:30 p.m. after Chinese Taipei and Guam collide at 4 o’clock.
“If we win that game (versus Macau), we will have a better chance to win the tournament,” Azkals coach Michael Weiss said.
The Azkals, at 150th the highest-ranked team in the event formerly known as the Long Teng Cup, enter the game against 200th-ranked Macau as favorites.
“It (Macau-Taipei draw) was a surprising result so we won’t take them lightly,” said Weiss, whose squad blanked Macau, 2-0, in their last meeting on October 4.
Despite having numerous scoring opportunities against a young Guamanian squad, the Azkals failed to find the back of the net until substitute Reichelt’s late heroics.
Strikers Denis Wolf and Ian Araneta, and left winger Chieffy Caligdong all bungled high-percentage attempts in the first half for the Azkals, who obviously missed their European-based players as well as prolific brothers Phil and James Younghusband, who were both left out of the roster.
“We have to be more composed in front of the goal,” Weiss said.
The Macanese, on the other hand, twice held the lead over the 176th-ranked Taiwanese, before settling for a draw.
“We have to be more compact on defense,” Macau coach Leung Sui Wing said through an interpreter.