MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Azkals’ caliber will finally be put to the test when they faced a highly-favored Uzbekistan at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.
After winning their first two World Cup qualifying matches against Bahrain and Yemen and a tune-up game with Maldives last week, the Azkals are going into the competition with momentum and confidence on their side.
Uzbekistan, on the other hand, got a shocker when it lost its first match against North Korea in June but came back to overcome Yemen, 1-0, last September 4 in Tashkent.
Both Azkals coach Thomas Dooley and team manager Dan Palami refused to give a prediction except to say the Philippine national football team will give a good fight against the Uzbeks, who are ranked 76th in the FIFA rankings. The Azkals are ranked 125th.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” Palami has declared, while Dooley said “we have a great team that is playing good football.” This is the first time the Philippine Azkals will be playing the Uzbeks.
Uzbekistan is considered a tough squad and one of the best teams in Asia along with football powerhouses Iran, South Korea, Japan, Australia, United Arab Emirates, and China.
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But Azkals players like Phil Younghusband, the team captain, and Misagh Bahadoran, who scored in both their matches against Bahrain and Yemen, are confident the team will beat Uzbekistan.
They said the team has several experienced players with exposure to international competitions and the chemistry and relationships among the members are good.
The hype to the upcoming Azkals-Uzbeks matchup has also reached new heights in Philippine sports with senators, actresses, TV hosts and a Fil-American mixed martial arts star calling on Filipinos to watch the game live and cheer on the Philippine team as well as to buy tickets as early as possible.
Among those who appealed for support for the Azkals were Senators Pia Cayetano and Sonny Angara, actresses and TV hosts Coleen Garcia and Karylle, TV personality Ryan Bang, MMA star Brandon Vera, and talk show Atty. Karen Jimeno.
“Suportahan natin ang ating mga kababayan na Azkals sa darating na September 8. They will be competing at the Philippine Sports Stadium against Uzbekistan,” Karylle has said.
Even multi-awarded actress and TV host Kris Aquino, who has thousands of followers, was seen wearing the pink Azkals shirt on her Instagram account.
The hashtag Azkals has also trended on Twitter last Sept. 3, with at least 216,000 tweets at one point, indicating that the publicity to the forthcoming match has hit a crescendo on social media.
To compensate fans for the efforts to watch the game live, ticket holders could gain free entrance after the game to the hip The Palace Pool Club in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig and experience Vegas style clubbing.
There are several routes going to the venue in Bocaue, Bulacan. For Metro Manila fans with private vehicles, they can enter NLEX through Balintawak and go past Valenzuela, Meycauayan and Marilao exits. After Marilao exit, keep right to use the shoulder road leading to the entrance to Ciudad de Victoria where the Philippine Sports Stadium is located.
For those who will use the Mindanao Smart Connect entrance to NLEX, go straight north and after Marilao exit, keep right and use the right shoulder to enter Ciudad de Victoria.
Tickets for the Azkals vs. Uzbekistan game to be held at the Philippine Sports Stadium on September 8, 2015 are now available at www.ticketworld.com.ph. Tickets are at P531.80 for Price Zone 1, P331.14 for Price Zone 2 and P125.40 for Price Zone 3.