Azkals start Suzuki Cup bid vs Singapore
The Azkals begin their tough climb out of the group stage of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 bid on Wednesday as they battle hosts Singapore at the National Stadium.
Bunched in Group A with five-time champion Thailand, the two teams face off at 8:30 p.m. with the hosts hoping to make it two wins in a row, after beating Myanmar, 3-0, in their opening match last Sunday.
The Azkals are seeking to make the semifinals for the fifth time in six tournaments since 2010 when they stunned then defending champion Vietnam, 2-0, in Hanoi, which remains their biggest win in the competition.
The last five meetings of the Azkals and the Lions since the 2010 tournament have seen both teams pick up a win each and drawing three times.
While captain Stephan Schrock is ready to the lead the side that will be handled by Stewart Hall for the competition, the Azkals are also missing several key players for various reasons. The Suzuki Cup does not fall in the Fifa window, which meant clubs aren’t compelled to release players to the national team.
Still, the Azkals have a formidable roster with the likes of Daisuke Sato, Kevin Ingreso, and Amani Aguinaldo all returning to the lineup after missing out on the latter part of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers early this year.
Vice-captain Patrick Reichelt and another senior player in Martin Steuble have also made themselves available for Azkals duty.
Bienve Marañon, the naturalized striker from Spain, will also make his debut for the Azkals after securing his Philippine passport last October.
“I’ve never been the kind of coach to focus on players that aren’t here but rather approach things thinking this is an opportunity for the younger players to force their way into the side and the older players to show that they also deserve to be here,” said Hall, who has been working closely with Scott Cooper, who is still waiting for his entry permit to Singapore.
Jeff Tabinas is also a notable absentee as he decided to stay in Japan due to possible restrictions in his re-entry to the country, while Iain Ramsay will arrive possibly just before the second match against Timor Leste on Saturday. Fortunately for the Azkals, Jesper Nyholm is already in Singapore and cleared his COVID-19 tests in the morning before the Singapore match.