The national men’s football team shoots for its second straight win when it battles Thailand in the AFF Suzuki Cup at the Singapore National Stadium on Tuesday.
Kickoff is at 5:30 p.m. (Manila time) with the Azkals riding the crest of their impressive 7-0 demolition of Timor Leste for their first victory in the preliminaries of the biggest football tournament in Southeast Asia.
Entering the halfway mark of its Pool A campaign, the Philippines is currently at the third spot with three points from its 1-1 card while Thailand and Singapore share the leadership with six points from their two consecutive wins.
Designated Azkals coach Stewart Hall said his wards are all fired up to sustain their blazing form and pull off a surprise in this all-important match against a tougher, title-contending Thai squad.
Hall said the Filipino booters finally found their groove after veterans Kevin Ingreso, Angel Guirado, Stephan Schrock and naturalized striker Bienvenido Marañon caught fire in the international pitch.
The Azkals are also expecting another boost with the arrival of veteran midfielder Iain Ramsay and another impressive defensive display from newcomer Jesper Nyholm.
With that, the Nationals are in a good position to finally break their winless head-to-head slump against the Thais since 1972.
The Filipinos and Thais last figured in a 1-1 draw during the 2018 edition of the Suzuki Cup.
“Yes we do (have a chance), we have a lot of confidence. Everyone in the squad is still fit and we managed our yellow cards,” said Hall, the British mentor who is calling the shots in behalf of Scott Cooper.
“We’re going into the game with everybody fit and available so we can pick our strongest team available.”
But pulling the rug from under Thailand will not be easy.
Entering the tournament as one of the favorites, the five-time champion team imposed its dominance with back-to-back victories over Myanmar and Timor Leste.
Thailand is expected to unleash heavy offensive firepower led by star forward Teerasil Dangda and young gunners Supachok Sarachat and Worachit Kanitsribampen.
The Alexandre Polking-mentored side is also tipped to parade Leicester City midfielder Thanawat Suengchitthawon as well as Japan-based booters Chanathip Songkrasin and Theerathon Bunmathan.