Azkals upbeat, won’t stray from gameplan

By Olmin Leyba

A still upbeat Azkals have vowed to stick more to their gameplan in tomorrow’s second leg as they try to pull off a shocker against a Kuwaiti Al Azraq team out to finish them off after a 3-0 verdict the first time around.

“Right now, they’re ready to get back, bounce back from this particular defeat to Kuwait,” team manager Dan Palami said during yesterday’s PSA Forum.

Palami said the Azkals’ strategy for the first leg in Hawally, Kuwait last Saturday proved helpful in opening up scoring opportunities especially in the first half that ended 1-0 for Al Azraq, although the Filipinos failed to convert on them.

The second half proved fatal as the Azkals deviated from the 4-5-1 formation by going 4-3-3, a mistake that Kuwait exploited with two more goals.

“Even following the strategy we had in the first game, we have very good (scoring) chances. In the first half, we had more chances than they had, only they converted it, we didn’t. It’s actually more shooting exercises rather than a really different strategy to implement,” he said.

“Especially during the first half, we’re able to control them with our defense; their best player had to be substituted because he couldn’t penetrate our defense. But we became too adventurous, the distances between our back four and mid four became too much and we started moving forward.

“We had to sacrifice our defense then and with a team like Kuwait, you know you can’t deviate somewhat from your gameplan because they will really pounce on you,” he added.

The return of central defender Aly Borromeo and midfielder Stephan Schrock from suspensions gives the Azkals more confidence.

“The biggest factor would be the presence of Aly and Schrock. It gives us more experience and quality which was lacking in the first leg. With Aly back and with Schrock at the center as well, we’ll have stability in the midfield. We don’t really have to do much changes, we just have to stick with the plan and when given a chance to score, we have to convert it,” he said.

Having a 12th man on the familiar pitch of Rizal will also do the Azkals well.

“The crowd will help intimidate the Kuwaitis, for one, and secondly it will help lift the spirits of the players. We actually haven’t lost at home or conceded a goal at home for a long time, and this is partly because of the support of the home crowd,” Palami said.

The Azkals need to beat Al Azraq, 4-0, or even 5-1 to steal the matchup on aggregate and reach the third round. Published in The Philippine Star