Philippines vs Singapore ::The Azkals may buck the trend

Suzuki Cup opener



The AFF Suzuki Cup kicks off Saturday at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan and the hosts the Philippines take on the footballing might of four time champions Singapore.
The Singapore Lions go into this group A clash against the Azkals with a distinct advantage as the record of the last six years clearly indicates; in the last three meetings that the two teams have clashed, there have been two draws with the odd one out being the victory of the lions over the Filipinos.
That victory was way back in 2012 in the second leg of the 2012 semifinals wherein the Azkals were trounced 1-0 by the Singaporean Lions. But, those are just figures and may not have much bearing on what transpires tomorrow.
Although the Lions have always gone into the clashes as favorites they may not be the firm favorites in the true sense since the Azkals are a spirited side that have the advantage of the home turf and a boisterous supportive home crowd to spur them on.
Hence, there can be no doubt that we are likely to see some superior displays by both the sides in the group A opener.
The semifinals loss two years ago is still fresh in the mind of the coach of the home team Thomas Dooley who is quite confident of the training done by his players and asserts that his squad is adequately prepared in comparison to what it was two years ago.
He has been having the squad under his wings for more than three weeks after the end season of the United Football league. Moreover, the way he sees it, Dooley envisages a marked gradual improvement of the level of fitness rather than the reverse which they had suffered in the last episode of the Suzuki Cup two years back.
The preparation, however, has not been without its share of hiccups and drawbacks the leading ones concerning the unavailability of striker Javier Patino and defender Daisuke Sato due to club commitments, and following the absence of Sato and Simone Rota, who sustained a knee injury early this year.
Overall, the squad Dooley at his disposal remains competent and much can be expected from this clash.
Umrao Singh

Written for: Lars-Magnus Carlsson
Friday, 18 November 2016