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Azkals seek crucial win

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STEPHAN Schrock and the Philippine Azkals face Timor Leste in a must-win battle in the AFF Suzuki Cup. / Photograph COURTESY OF AZKALS

The national men’s team shoots for a crucial win when it clashes with Timor Leste in the AFF Suzuki Cup at the Singapore National Stadium on Saturday.

Kickoff starts at 5:30 p.m. (Manila time) with the Philippine Azkals looking to finally barge into the win column gain momentum despite missing the services of several key players in this prestigious football showpiece.

Azkals coach Stewart Hall said they can’t afford to drop another game, especially after opening the tourney with a dismal 1-2 loss to host Singapore late Wednesday.

Hall, the British coach who is temporarily calling the shots for head coach Scott Cooper, said they have already moved on from the bitter setback and are now eyeing to snatch their first win and gain three points over the lower-ranked Timor Leste.

Both Philippines and Timor Leste are the only winless teams in Pool A while Singapore is leading the pack with two straight victories followed by Thailand and Myanmar with one apiece.

Fortunately for the Azkals, they will have a boost in defense with the arrival of Filipino-Swedish defender Jesper Nyholm, who will join the nucleus of veterans Daisuke Sato, Amani Aguinaldo, Martin Steuble and strikers Bienvenido Maranon and Patrick Reichelt.

“We know now that we probably have to win three games to go through or two wins and a draw,” said Hall, whose wards have asserted their dominance over Timor Leste as they won four of their last five matches since 2006.

“It’s hard for me to be critical after a performance like that. The players know they lost the game in three minutes (against Singapore).”

Still, Hall said they couldn’t afford to be complacent against a youthful and hungry Timorese side.

Ranked as the lowest Southeast Asian team in the FIFA standings at No. 194, the squad suffered twin defeats from the hands of Thailand and Myanmar.

Timor Leste head coach Fabio Macial of Portugal said their backs are now against the wall and they desperately need to get a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

“Our next opponent is Philippines (and) it will be a tough game. And we know that, we are aware of that,” Macial said, pinning his hopes on young guns and under-23 standouts Mouzinho de Lima, Joao Pedro da Silva and Paulo Gali.

“This is a process, we have to be patient with the boys and I know they will progress game by game.”

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