Bring it on, Azkals!

Manila Times - - SPORTS - ROMY P. MARIÑAS

IT’S make or break day–Novem­ber 14—for the Philippine Azkals.

Mem­bers of the Philippine na­tional foot­ball team and their coach, Thomas Doo­ley, are in Nepal at this writ­ing (Tues­day af­ter­noon) to try to nail an out­right slot in the 2019 Asian Cup.

To suc­ceed in that mis­sion, the Azkals will have to beat the home team.

A draw against Nepal would drop Doo­ley’s boys to sec­ond place in the four-team Group F, which the Azkals cur­rently lead with 8 points, fol­lowed by Ta­jik­istan and Ye­men, with 6 points each, and win­less Nepal.

Fin­ish­ing run­ner-up would still en­able the vis­i­tors to cap­ture one of two spots in the Asian Cup two years from now in the United Emi­rates, by it­self a feat that would send the coun­try’s na­tional team pre­mier foot­ball tour­na­ment that is held ev­ery four years.

Even­tu­ally top­ping Group F is not a tall order for the Philippine Azkals, de­spite the re­ported ab­sence be­cause of in­juries of main­stays Javier Patino, Amani Aguinaldo, Manny Ott and Luke Wood­land.

For one, in their home game last March 28 at Manila’s Rizal Me­mo­rial Foot­ball Sta­dium that your Free Kicker watched, the Filipinos beat the Nepalis, 4-1, on a brace from Phil Younghus­band and a goal each from Iain Ram­say and Patino.

For an­other, the Azkals are ev­i­dently more ex­pe­ri­enced than the Gorkhalis, as mem­bers of Nepal’s na­tional foot­ball team are pop­u­larly called, hav­ing, for ex­am­ple reached the twice in 2010 and 2012 and the the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia.

Still, for an­other, Doo­ley’s wards are as of this month ranked 116th by FIFA and Nepal, 176th.

The lat­est rank­ing makes the Philippine Azkals the No. 1 foot­ball team in South­east Asia, ahead of pow­er­house Thai­land (138th).

The weather in Nepal should bother the Azkals but, we be­lieve, not enough for them to freeze dur­ing the game at Kath­mandu at 2:15 p.m. (4:15 p.m., Manila time).

Younghus­band and com­pany, with a vic­tory to punch that ticket to the UAE, will bring the Philippine na­tional foot­ball team to the Mid­dle East in 2019 to bat­tle the likes of Aus­tralia (the de­fend­ing cham­pion).

( We made this pre­dic­tion at 2: 52 p. m., Tues­day, Novem­ber 14.)

One more cheerer would not hurt the cause of the Azkals and the Philip­pines, would it?

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