The road to Qatar begins here and we start off with an absolute firecracker of a match between the Philippines and Syria and the Panaad Stadium as both teams will look to kick off their respective campaigns with a win.
Both teams are coming with high hopes as they’d like to break their respective winless streaks. The Azkals wants to wake up from a nightmare as they’ve lost their last five matches while Syria is looking to bounce back from their group stage exit in the 2019 West Asian Football Federation Championship.
Despite their exit from the tournament, Syria notched two draws against Yemen via 1-1 scoreline and a scoreless draw with Iraq. They’ve also produced quite a respectable performance despite defeats against Lebanon (2-1) and Palestine (4-3).
Heading into today’s match, the Philippine Azkals’ assistant manager Scott Cooper said “We have a team that we’re proud of. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
Team captain Stephan Schröck have acknowledged the quality of their opponents. “We know that Syria’s a very strong opponent. They’re very impressive in the way they play and we’re looking forward to the game.”
Cooper also recognized the fact that Syria’s way ahead of us in the FIFA rankings as the visiting side’s currently sitting at rank 87 while the Philippines are currently ranked 126.
“On paper, it’s a game where Syria will be confident in. The FIFA rankings don’t lie. For us, it’s an opportunity for us to see how we can fair against a very strong team. They came out of pot two so on paper, they are the second-favourites to win the group so we have to be realistic,” said Cooper.
In terms of the tactics for today’s match given the fact that Goran Milejovic has just been named the new head coach of the Azkals as Cooper has yet to secure his AFC Pro license, it will be interesting to see what do they have planned for the Azkals.
“Coaching right now is more of a collaboration between the set of coaches that are working in the team and we’ve worked together in years. It’s never the same when we had Mr. Erikson (Sven-Goran) here, I think it’s safe to say it’s different,” said Cooper.
He also said, “There’s not a lot of time that’s passed by so we have to adapt into some new ideas. We’ve got some components we like to put in and it’s going to take time. We have to take every opportunity we can to put in a new philosophy or system.”
We simply can’t wait to see the Azkals in action against Syria to kick things off in the Joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. You can catch the action by tuning into 5Plus at 7:30 PM or you can also drop by ESPN5.com for the live stream online.