AT first glance, the Philippines may seem to have some room for error against Turkmenistan after building a sizeable lead in the qualifiers for the 2014 Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup.
A draw is enough and even a few goals could be conceded, but the Azkals will be looking to play for the win when they clash with their Central Asian opponents on Tuesday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
A win or a draw will clinch for the Azkals a place in the tournament proper featuring Asia's emerging football nations. Thanks to an 8-0 thumping of Cambodia on Sunday, they also have a good chance of making it as one of two best runners-up.
With a six-point lead in the standings and a goal difference of +11, the Azkals can even lose to the Turkmen by six points and still advance considering the best second-placed team from the five qualifying groups is Bangladesh, which has six points and a +5 goal difference.
Coach Michael Weiss noted they may play a little conservative at first, but will definitely go for the victory as the Azkals seek vengeance after a 1-2 loss to the Turkmen that denied them a place in the Challenge Cup final last year.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
“I will probably go a little bit more on the safety side in the beginning and parts of the match because we are in the driver’s seat,” Weiss said.
The Azkals were hardly challenged in their 8-0 triumph against Cambodia on Sunday, but the Azkals are set to face their toughest test yet in the Turkmen.
“To keep a clean sheet, we will be a little bit more reserved, but nevertheless, go for the win but with a smart tactic,” the German mentor added. “With these players, we can display anything in any situation.”
Phil Younghusband, who scored half of the team’s goals against Cambodia, is expected to lead the way anew along with fellow striker Javier Patiño and left winger Stephan Schrock.
“The Philippines is always the underdog in every game, but the result against Cambodia gives us a good feeling and morale for the next game,” said Schrock, who had his imprint all over the Cambodia game, including a neat long-range left-footed curling shot.
While they welcome the return of English Premier League campaigner Neil Etheridge from suspension, the Azkals will miss the services of Filipino-Dutch midfielder Paul Mulders, who will sit out after incurring a red card last Sunday for kicking the ball to Cambodian sub Teab Vathanak.
It remains to be seen, though, who the starting goalkeeper will be between Etheridge and Roland Muller and who will be tapped to replace Mulders at central midfield.
“There are some hard decisions to be made. We have top, quality players. Everybody can come in and make an immediate impact,” said Weiss, who appears to be settled with the rest of the starters.
“We’ll have one substitution and that’s for Paul Mulders. The players played fantastic football so why would I change the team?”
The Challenge Cup offers one ticket to the Asian Cup in 2015.