The Philippine Azkals will take on Chinese Taipei Wednesday night at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in what is essentially a must-win game after the sudden change in format of the Philippine Peace Cup.
The Peace Cup’s format was revised following a FIFA advisory. Instead of a round-robin tournament where the four participating teams will play three games, each participating team will only play two matches.
Thus, the Azkals’ game against Chinese Taipei is a knockout game, with the winner advancing to play the winner of the other match between Palestine and Myanmar.
Palestine will play Myanmar at 4 p.m. while the Azkals, the defending champions, will meet Chinese Taipei at 7 p.m.
The medal matches will be held on September 6.
“I would love to play three games,” Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley said in a press conference on Tuesday. “That’s what we wanted. The more games we play, the better for us to develop.”
“It’s not a big deal, but it would have been nice if we got three,” he added.
Dooley admitted that the team right now is not at 100% as “some people are injured, some people are sick.”
“It’s obviously not perfect, but those are the things that we have to deal with sometimes, and we will,” he added.
Dooley said he is expecting a “very difficult tournament” considering that the Azkals lost to Chinese-Taipei last year and to Palestine earlier this year.
“We are in a situation where we still have to prove some things,” he said. “Like I said, we have two teams in this tournament that we lost to in this year and last year, and we would like to change that a little bit.”
The other participating teams have their own goals to achieve during the Peace Cup.
“It is important for us to have these games because we are facing important competition in the qualification for the Suzuki Cup in October,” said Myanmar’s Raddy Avramovic.
“This is a good opportunity, especially in playing against teams like the Philippines and Palestine, the two finalists in the Challenge Cup. The best way to test ourselves is in those games,” he added.
Palestine, meanwhile, is using the tournament to help in its preparations for the Asian Cup.
The Palestinians had qualified to the Asian Cup at the Azkals’ expense after they beat the Filipinos in the finals of the Challenge Cup. It is unsure, however, if the two squads will get to meet in a rematch, unless they both either win or lose their opening day matches.
Dooley named his 24-man line-up for the Peace Cup last Friday.