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Azkals face off with Vietnam


by Jonas Terrado

Phil Younghusband remains confident of the Philippine Azkals’ chances of pulling off a sequel of the “Miracle of Hanoi” when they seek to overhaul a 2-1 deficit against semifinal foe Vietnam and advance to a breakthrough AFF Suzuki Cup finals appearance tonight at My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi.

Despite giving up two goals in Sunday’s home tie at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City, Younghusband is far from throwing the white towel going in the 7:30 p.m. local time (8:30 p.m. Manila time) match, knowing that he and the Azkals have done the unthinkable before.

Incidentally, the away leg comes a day after the eighth anniversary of the Philippines’ 2-0 win over Vietnam in the group stage of the Suzuki Cup, marking the change in the landscape of the country’s football program.

Like in that memorable evening in Hanoi, the Azkals will have to overcome the odds of facing a Vietnam side that conceded all but one goal since the competition began last month.

“We’ve seen bigger miracles happen in football before and I think we still have a chance,” Younghusband said.

A two-goal victory will be enough for the Azkals of coach Sven-Goran Eriksson to the finals against either defending champion Thailand or Malaysia, given that Vietnam also holds the away goals advantage.

Goals by Nguyen Anh Duc and Phan Van Duc put to naught Patrick Reichelt’s first-half score as Vietnam moved on the cusp of advancing to the final for the first time since winning it all in 2008.

But Vietnam has had a history of blowing chances of making the finals in its last two semifinal appearances.

The Golden Stars fell 5-4 to Malaysia on aggregate despite securing a 2-1 win in the first leg of the 2014 semis in Kuala Lumpur.

Vietnam was also defeated 5-4 on aggregate by Indonesia in the semis two years earlier.

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