Strengths – They may ‘burn by the heat’ of their neighbor’s success story, as Thailand clinched qualification to the knockout phase. However, the Azkals will need a massive win against Kyrgyzstan, another debutant at this tournament, to secure their spot. Their strengths lie in their several ‘European-born’ players, who bring discipline from their time training in bigger leagues.
Weaknesses – The Azkals are clearly having a problem in front of goal, as they haven’t scored any goals from two last matches. So far, Sven-Goran Eriksson has opted for more defensive tactics, going with a 5-4-1 rather than the 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 he used in AFF Cup. While it is clear that the challenge of a continental match is much greater than a regional one, they need to be an offensive team to win a match.
Player to Watch (with explanation) – Patrick Reichelt
He replaced James Younghusband’s spot as the wide midfielder last time out. Reichelt didn’t work well with Buriram striker Javier Patino in the last game, meaning coach Eriksson may have to rotate his front line, meaning the German-born attacker may be crucial if his side is to get a win.
Strengths – While the Philippines’ have several ‘European-born’ players, it is easy to forget that Kyrgyzstan was one of a part of Soviet Union. Under the Russian coach Aleksandr Krestinin they play good attacking football and can surprise the opponent’s defensive line. Their players have good posture to, with strength in aerial duels, meaning that they will not be daunted by the Philippines physicality.
Weaknesses – However, the problem with Kyrgyzstan is their lack of concentration before and after the half-time. They attacked ferociously during the start and didn’t leave enough time to cool off their engines,’ allowing China and South Korea to hurt them at crucial moments.
Player to Watch (with explanation) – Akhlidin Israilov
Akhlidin is the only player who doesn’t have a club in the team. But surprisingly, he is the one and only scorer for The White Falcons’ so far. After failing to join Indonesian side PSIS Semarang in the beginning of 2018, Akhlidin has proven himself to be the best midfielder in his team so far. He can make fluid runs through the opponent’s defensive line to make either long shoots or a lob passes to the lone striker, Mirlan Murzaev.
Both teams need to win, meaning that this could end up being a great encounter. The Kyrgyz will bring their explosive attacking power against the Philippines’ calm and steady possession. The White Falcons’ chance looks slightly greater than the Azkals, due their gameplay and superiority in an attacking sense.