Azkals brace for crucial AFC duel with Tajikistan

MANILA, Philippines — Moving on to the main task while learning from the mistakes of the recent friendly against Fiji, the Philippine Azkals vowed to shift to high gears when they face Tajikistan in the biggest match of their lives on Tuesday.

The Azkals, who posted a shaky 3-2 verdict over lower-ranked Fiji in a warmup last Thursday, need a draw or a win in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers match against tough Tajikistan at Rizal Memorial Stadium to achieve history and progress to the continent’s showpiece in 2019.

“It’s all or nothing,” skipper Phil Younghusband said. “We know Tajikistan is a tough team; they need to win so we expect them to be very aggressive and come out 100 percent. It’s important that we have the right preparation.”

The Pinoy booters used the friendly against the Bula Boys to prepare for the Tajikistan and although they ended up winning, conceding two goals in the last 16 minutes off defensive flaws raised some concerns.

But Younghusband said everything’s under control.

“Obviously, the last 15, 20 minutes was (problematic) but what’s important is that we don’t let that affect our mindset and we concentrate on the good things that we did in that game (Fiji) and taking that into the game on the 27th (Tajikistan),” he said.