Playing away in arctic conditions with the temperature approaching ten below zero is a test for any team. But when the side in question has come from the sunshine and humidity of a tropical country, then the challenge is enormous regardless of the opponent. Such conditions greeted the Philippines when they played in Mongolia on Tuesday in the second leg qualifying play-off for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup.
When midfielder James Younghusband opened the scoring after just three minutes, the Filipinos appeared on their way to a comfortable victory. With their initial goal achieved, coach Michael Weiss could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Mongolia went on the offensive after the restart, but the Philippines remained resilient to hang for a 3-2 aggregate victory.
Next building block awaits. With the progression sealed, the Azkals, though, are hardly allowed time for celebration as they must gear up for next week’s qualifying group campaign, where they will do battle alongside hosts Myanmar, as well as Palestine and Bangladesh, with the top-two finishers advancing to the second-tier Asian finals itself. For coach Weiss, the play-off against Mongolia provided his side with a good chance to sharpen their form and gain experience despite key striker Phil Younghusband suffering a hamstring injury during the game.
Philippines have largely remained out of the Asian limelight, with previous attempts to qualify for the AFC Challenge Cup ending in failure. Understandably Weiss is now seeking to create history with the Azkals by taking the team to their first Asian finals. Read Full Story