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Do-or-die Wednesday for Philippine Azkals in Asian Cup

The Azkals are in a must-win situation on Wednesday night. AFC (file photo)

By Xy-Zha Cabanlong

MANILA--The Philippine Azkals find themselves in a very crucial position ahead of their final group stage match against Kyrgyz Republic to keep their hopes alive at the 2019 Asian Cup.

It’s all or nothing for the Azkals coming into the match at the Rashid Stadium in Dubai as it will again be a test of their character as well as how much they wanted to stay in the competition – at least make it to the Round of  16.

Their current situation is quite similar as to how they came into the match against Tajikistan during the qualifiers back then.

They only needed a draw to qualify but a win by the visitors meant goodbye to the Asian Cup dream.

The Azkals did not only give the country a draw in order to qualify for the cup, they gave the home crowd that packed the Rizal Memorial Stadium a 2-1 win over the visiting Tajikistan side in what could be one of the historic feat for Philippine sports in 2018.

However, this time around, the Philippines cannot afford to settle for a draw as it meant packing their bags up and go back home.

As it stands, both teams have the chance to qualify for the next round.

A draw or a win by the Kyrgyz Republic will knock us out of the competition.

A win by the Philippines--along with a favorable result coming from other groups matches--would get us through.

“We need to win by a decent margin; 2-0 and up, for a good chance to progress. 1-0 win is still possible, but surviving the group is very much dependent on other teams’ results,” said former Dugout Philippines writer and football expert Earl Averilla.

“If we survive Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday, there is a possibility that we might face the number one seed of a certain group,” added David Abella, who has been playing and is a passionate fan of the sport since he was a kid.

"Qualification is not just in our hands now, but we should do our part by winning vs. Kyrgyz [Republic]," football analyst and columnist, Ryan Fenix explained.

Defense-wise, these lads think that the Azkals can pull through as they have already exemplified how the Sven-Goran Eriksson-led team worked on the defense after being its weakness for the longest time.

It is at this game that defenders like Daisuke Sato and Alvaro Silva would be needed the most as these two has been undeniably rock solid in effort in terms of keeping the Philippine side's wall tough despite conceding goals in the previous two outings in the competition.

Much of the job that needs to be polished from here on depends on the midfielders and the forwards.

“We need to score goals. We need to put the best formation we have. The thing is, in my opinion, the midfield is not creating enough chances for Patino and Reichelt to convert.” Abella further said.

It’s all about scoring goals and keeping the opponent away from the threat of a counter attack – that is the main idea that these three wanted to point out.

"Qualification is also dependent on results from other groups. [We need] as many goals as we can," Fenix said when asked about how many goals the Azkals must score to secure their spot for the next round.

“Personally, I just want our team to win. Permutations aside – the team should go out on a high. I believe surviving is just a bonus,” Averilla added.

Abella was also keen on suggesting that perhaps a change in formation would be effective on this all-important game.

“With all due respect to Phil, he’s getting slow. He needs to be a lethal 9 or a false 9. I think he can fit in a 4-3-1-2 formation.”

Reichelt             Patino

P. Younghusband

Ingreso           Ott           Strauss

Sato   Palla   Silva  Woodland

Depiction of David Abella’s projected 4-3-1-2 formation

“Phil can be a playmaker or a dangerous striker. We need to score, and at this point in time, we need him. After all, he’s not our lead scorer for nothing.” Abella adds

On the other hand, Averilla thinks that a win by the Philippines is possible against Kyrgyz Republic.

“It’s possible, but it’s going to be very tough. Kyrgyz Republic know they currently sit at third so they have the option to sit back and frustrate our team.”

Follow her on Twitter: @_ichbinxyzha