The Dossier presents: A Day of Reckoning (Philippines v Tajikistan primer)

This will be the biggest match in the history of the game since Hanoi seven years ago. Mike Romero/file
By Kevin Estrada




Call it cardiac or more thrilling like that, but our final Asian Cup qualifier on Holy Tuesday is our day of reckoning.

It has been seven years, three months, and 22 days since Philippine football made its huge mark away at the then-reigning champions' lair no less.

A 2-0 shocker against Vietnam in the AFF Championship game the sport a massive shot in the arm, leading to countless promotions in bringing the beautiful game back to the consciousness of the basketball-crazy country.

But fast forward to Tuesday night and we are here, 90 minutes away from adding another chapter into our glorious history with the world's most popular sport as the Central Asians are in town seeking revenge from last year's stinging setback to the Azkals in their own patch in a virtual war with a ticket to the UAE awaiting the most fortunate ones.

With a lot to talk about, we would only focus on the four points.

1. Our unbeaten record in Group F will not matter here. So also our past tiffs with them.

Forget out nine points from the first five matches. Our gap between Tajikistan and Yemen is just two points. Since the war-torn West Asians will have an easy task in dispatching Nepal, this tiff will be the deal breaker.

Of course, we've played with Tajikistan twice before and we came on top. But that will be rendered useless if we drop this one.

Thomas Dooley know that only a point will bring them to the Asian Cup for the very first time, but he still insisted that they have to attack and get the goals that they need, in which we will delve with it further.

2. Pressure. What pressure?

Thomas Dooley's statement is like a life lesson that we have to work hard for what we wanted. Mike Romero/file
As the Azkals play first on the final day, because Yemen is not willing to play at the hot Doha afternoon just to have it at the same time as ours, there are some worries from the supporters' side that the team will be folding under immense pressure.

But the gaffer dismissed all that and assured that everything were fine for the team, saying that we have our destiny in our own hands with the fact that we are the group leaders.

"The pressure is zero. Because we cannot influence the game over there," he replied in a straightforward manner. "It's us. We have in our hands to play our game."

His reply to my question is a great life lesson to us right there, for we should not be dependent on other's work to get the job done. His focus was nearly spotless for he knows that the distractions off the field will not be 

3. We go all out. The big guns are here.

By fielding an experimental side that featured in a gritty win against Fiji, our guests think that the Bula Boys' fightback attempt will be somewhat be a good news.

For us, the answer might be a YES AND A NO.

Yes, because our central defence is our main concern as we do not have new players in our stock.

But I beg to disagree on the reasons that we have saved our best for last.

We got two bedrocks in our back line that will assert and command control. Left back Daisuke Sato and goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who both have shone for their domestic sides and will be available for us.

4. For Phil Younghusband, it was a golden opportunity to create history
Asked between the 50th goal for his country and the ticket to Dubai, the skipper has a no-brainer for a reply. Dennis Jerome Acosta/file
The skipper and the all time leader in caps and goals in the modern era got his 49th from the spot last Thursday, setting a huge stage not just for him, and for the entire nation.

Flashback to Hanoi, he fired the dagger into the hearts of Henrique Calisto with more than 10 minutes left for his 12th career goal in a Philippines shirt.

And now, he has the golden opportunity to join the ranks of Pele, Ronaldo and Messi in a golden club of the most lethal goalscorers.

However, the skipper shows his leadership by example, saying that the focus for them is to qualify for the Asian Cup.

"I'll take the win, definitely. The 50th [goal] can wait for another time," he said.


Paraphrasing Gerrard four years ago, the Azkals should not let this slip.

A draw will be just enough for us to go through and see the new chapter in the history of the game.

With Rizal's grandstand almost full to the brim, the match will be a defining moment for the game of football, as it looks to regain the respect and the admiration it lost during the past three years.

Truly enough, Pinoys loved the sight of the do-or-dies in sports. With this, the country is waiting to see if football will be on the same wavelength as basketball and volleyball.

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada