Azkals eye long-due revenge
By Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) Updated June 28, 2011 12:00 AM
Manila, Philippines - When the Azkals take on Sri Lanka in the first leg of the 2014 Fifa World Cup Asian Qualifiers tomorrow in Colombo, desire to make history for Philippine football would not be the sole factor that would drive the Filipino booters.
Revenge would also play a role, according to team manager Dan Palami, as Phl XI would want to avenge its 0-3 defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka the last time the two nations collided in another World Cup qualifier 15 years ago in Doha.
“Last time in 1996, the Philippines lost to Sri Lanka, 0-3. It’s payback time now. We want to show them that the Philippine team 2011 is not the same as the Philippine team 1996 that they beat,” Palami said.
Of course, a lot had happened in those 15 years.
Phl now enjoys some sort of renaissance, spurred by a major 2-0 upset of powerhouse Vietnam, a semifinal appearance in last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup and a berth to the main draw of the AFC Challenge Cup.
The Azkals also carry a higher Fifa ranking (156) than Sri Lanka (169) and the Brave Reds are coming off two losses and a draw in their own AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers campaign last year.
Phl XI is looking to make it to the second round of the World Cup’s Asian qualifiers for the first time. For this, they have assembled the strongest team possible, adding Fil-foreigners Manuel Ott, Stephan Schorck, Nathaniel Burkey and Paul Mulders to the 2010 crew led by Neil Etheridge, Phil and James Younghusband, Aly Borromeo and Chieffy Caligdong.
“We’re twice better than what the team was in the Challenge Cup,” said Palami, who even predicted the Azkals to score at least two goals against the Brave Reds.
The Azkals underwent two-week training in Germany, playing against four German clubs, including second division side FC Ingolstadt 04 and third division club SV Darmstadt 98.
“Having the training camp did us well,” Palami said, his confidence not waning despite the Azkals’ shutout losses to Ingoldstadt (0-4) and (0-5) in the homestretch of their German sessions.
“I’m sure the guys will be ready to get back from their defeats against strong German teams. Of course, their oppopent (Sri Lanka) will certainly not be in the caliber of the teams we played in Germany,” he added.