A shorthanded but well-rested Philippine men’s football team hopes to take advantage of a golden opportunity as it battles Pakistan for the Philippine Peace Cup title on Tuesday in the final day of the tournament at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
Fancied to sweep the competition, the Azkals were sent back to earth on Friday when they surrendered a stunning 1-2 decision at the hands of Chinese Taipei in the opener.
But the Filipino booters got back in the hunt after Pakistan nipped the Taiwanese, 1-0, on Sunday.
This time, the 141st-ranked Azkals, are certainly not going to underestimate the Pakistanis, ranked 34 places below them in the world, in the 7 p.m. kickoff.
“Hopefully we won’t be as naïve and think that we are unbeatable, which I think was a factor in the game last Friday,” starting goalkeeper Neil Etheridge said.
The Azkals, running third in the standings without a point and a -1 goal difference to show, need to win by at least two goals to bag the trophy, while a draw awards Pakistan the crown.
A one-goal Azkals victory will give Chinese Taipei the title due to tiebreaker rules that will have the Taiwanese emerge superior over the Pakistani due to greater number of goals scored, including their victory over the Azkals last week.
Armed with three days of rest, the Azkals hope to pounce on the weary Pakistanis.
“Pakistan lost a lot of power against Chinese Taipei so the chance is there for us,” said Azkals coach Michael Weiss, who will still be missing the services of OJ Porteria, Jason de Jong, and Mark Hartmann due to food poisoning, and star striker Phil Younghusband because of a calf injury he sustained in practice last week.
“I think what’s important is that we play cohesively,” Azkals manager Dan Palami said. “The win will come if we play together as a team.”