‘We’ll beat Lankans in Manila’

Friday, 1 July 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

MANILA, Philippines:  The German coach of the Philippine football team admits he’s not happy, but is not about to cry over spilled milk.

 “I’m not the happiest man in the world but I’m not too disappointed. We take the result as it is and prepare for the match on Sunday,” Michael Weiss told interaction.com, a television website.

The Azkals barely escaped with a 1-all draw with Sri Lanka Wednesday in the first leg of their opening World Cup qualifying match in Colombo.

Weiss said the Azkals could have won the match had they got off to a bright start.

 “We could have finished the match in the first half. But we didn’t do it and we got punished. The goal was unlucky, it was deflected. We continued to play and pressed for a goal in the second half. Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish them off,” Weiss said.

 “We were lucky at the end. It’s a good result for us. We wanted to win but things don’t turn out as planned,” he said.

Weiss said pitch conditions were difficult.

 “I don’t want to make it an excuse but it was difficult to have a passing game on that pitch. We had to play long balls. It’s not my favorite style of play but we were able to create chances with it. I cannot hang my head down right now,” Weiss said.

The Filipinos were set to return last night, giving them two days to prepare for the second leg to be held at the Rizal Memorial stadium on Sunday.

Sri Lanka, a world power in cricket but a minnow in football, scored the first goal in the 43rd minute when Chathura Guranarathna’s free kick thundered past the Azkals’ wall, partially hit the head of Rob Gier and beat goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.

The Azkals, however, did not lose hope and turned to Fil-American rookie Nate Burkey to score the equalizer seven minutes later.

Burkey, inserted into the game in place of injured striker Phil Younghusband, was at the right place and at the right time to head home the all-important goal. He completed a follow up header off a missed header by James Younghusband, a play set up by a gorgeous free kick by Caligdong.

Despite the less-than-stellar result, Weiss remained confident they can overcome Sri Lanka at home.

The Azkals need only to hold Sri Lanka scoreless to get into the next round against Kuwait by virtue of away goal. If it ends at 1-1, an extra time will be needed, but if it closes out on a 2-2, the Philippines will be eliminated.

Team manager Dan Palami said the Azkals won’t settle for a goal-less draw.

 “We would have wanted a two-goal cushion. But we can’t always get what we want. We have to make sure that we learn from the game we played today,” Palami said. “It’s going to be different crowd, a different pitch on Sunday and for as long as we learned from this draw, we will be okay. We will go for the win and not just the draw.”

Meanwhile, there’s so much interest in Philippine football’s renaissance nowadays that a drove of international media is expected to cover the Azkals’ home match against Sri Lanka in the first round of the qualifying tournament for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Rick Olivares, the media officer for the July 3 match, said the British Broadcasting Company and the European Press Photo Agency, and Stuttgarter Sportkurier, a news agency from the capital state of Baden-Wuerttemberg in southern Germany, are among the over hundreds of media outfits which applied for accreditation for the match at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.  “It’s surprising that so many international media is interested in Philippine football,” Olivares said. “This is the sign of the globalization for the sport.” (Source: Manila Bulletin)