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Azkals going on attack mode against Timor Leste to keep Suzuki Cup hopes alive

The Azkals might need more than a win to keep their hopes of winning the AFF Suzuki Cup alive. PFF (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Following a huge loss to Singapore on Wednesday night, the Philippines Azkals now need to as much as possible win all their three remaining Group A matches in the AFF Suzuki Cup to clinch a spot in the semifinals.

But with the goal difference possibly in play too, the Azkals might also need to get their offense going to solidify their bid further.

Interim coach Stewart Hall is aware of that, and he said that they might go for a more offensive lineup when they take on Timor Leste on Saturday night at the Singapore National Stadium.

"We'll go into it with an extra striker," Hall said on Friday during the online pre-match press conference.

The Azkals took a bit of a gamble by putting skipper Stephan Schrock, known as a central midfielder, into a more attacking position against Singapore to backstop United Clark teammate Bienve Maranon.

While Schrock got his moments late in the match, the Azkals struggled offensively for the most part with Maranon only getting a few touches in his Azkals debut, which proved costly down the stretch as they fell to the Singaporeans for the first time in nine years.

But Hall implied that they have learned some lessons from there and will approach the Timor Leste match more offense-oriented.

"We'll jiggle the team around a little bit for a bit more firepower," he further said.

However, Hall is also wary of what the Timorese players can do especially with the recent results in both the senior and the under-23 levels.

In their last Suzuki Cup meeting in 2018, the Azkals needed to escape a comeback bid from Timor Leste to seal the victory.

The year before that, Timor Leste stunned the Azkals in a pocket tournament in Taiwan.

Recently, the Azkals' under-23 squad lost to Timor Leste in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers on a stoppage-time goal.

Even if Timor Leste's hopes of making the knockout stages are now slim following an 0-2 start and a group-worst minus-4 GD, Hall is expecting the team to fight until the end in their showdown scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. kickoff.

"We've just got to make sure that we don't underestimate them because I've watched their first two games and as I observed, one thing they don't do is give up. They're not scared to lose," he further said. "We've got to make sure that we work very hard against them. We've got to dominate the possession and the ball."

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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