Photo Courtesy: Anton Sheker/football.com.ph
The Philippine Azkals will face a hardened and experienced Uzbekistan squad on Sept. 8, a game that would test the mettle of the newly-minted and strongest ever roster of overseas- and local-based professional footballers.
“We need the support of Filipino football enthusiasts and even non-football fans to fill up the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan, and applaud and inspire our players to give their best for the country,” Team Manager Dan Palami said.
Opened on July 21 last year, the world class Philippine Sports Stadium is the newest and largest stadium in the Philippines with a maximum football seating capacity of 20,000. Located within a tourism enterprise zone in Bocaue, it is bordered by the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) itself and easily accessible by private or public transport. Travel time is less than an hour from most parts of Metro Manila as the site is just after Marilao and before Bocaue with direct access exit along NLEX.
Holding the game at the Philippine Sports Stadium will also allow spectators to experience first class facilities and ultra modern surroundings and see the 103 x 68 meters football field with natural grass surface, he said.
The much-awaited match, which is part of the Asian qualifiers of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, starts at 8 p.m., giving football aficionados and non-aficionados enough time to catch the first kick.
“There’s no better way to push our Azkals to play at the top of their game, score goals and impose a high-pressure defense on the opponents than the thunderous applause, encouraging shouts of fans and electric atmosphere in the stadium,” Coach Tom Dooley said.
He said Uzbekistan, which ranks 75th in the recent FIFA rankings and the highest ranked team in its group, is a formidable opponent and has been burnishing its credentials as genuine title contenders in Asia. The Uzbeks have a good showing in the tough Asian Cup with back-to-back quarter-final appearances in 2004 and 2007 and a fourth place finish in Qatar in 2011.
Talking about determination to make it to the FIFA World Cup in 2018, Uzbekistan has lots of it since host Russia is just next door and it wants nothing short of qualification for its first ever World Cup.
The Azkals, on the other hand, are ranked 124th, so far their highest place in the history of the FIFA rankings. They also dislodged Southeast Asian neighbors Thailand (140th) and Vietnam (143rd) in the recent rankings.
“The team is very motivated to end the qualifying round at the top of the group to be able to move a step closer to the World Cup. It’s an uphill goal but we will do our best to achieve it,” Palami said. Landing as one of the four best second place finishers in the qualifying round will likewise enable the team to make the cut to the next round of the World Cup.
He believed that the team has assembled the strongest Azkals roster ever with the addition of highly experienced Filipinos playing abroad and some returnees.
The good showing of the Azkals in their first two outings indicated the impressive line-up is living up to its billings. The Azkals defeated Bahrain for the first time, 2-1, at home last June 11 then thrashed Yemen, 2-0, on the road last June 16. A win against Uzbekistan on September 8 will help advance the team to the next round in the World Cup qualifiers and also book an automatic slot in the next AFC Asian Cup.
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.