Ready for a Big Win? 8 Reasons Azkals Will Win the Long Teng Cup

Ready for the 2011 Long Teng Cup? It’s a big moment in Philippine Football. The Azkals are coming off a big first in World Cup qualifying, where they advanced to the second qualifying round for the first time in the history of Philippine football with Pinoys everywhere cheered them on. They’ve been training intensively for this one. The last time out they finished third, and a better finish is expected this time around. The implications of a Long Teng Cup win are tantalizing. Here’s why we believe they’ll get it:

1. The Azkals are pitted against teams of near equal ranking, unlike the World Cup qualifying games. Since this summer, when the team made its big first in World Cup qualifying play, the team has moved up the international rankings, and they’re looking to move forward. From a ranking’s standpoint, the cup is a pretty even affair, with three contenders ranked within 16 places of one another. Hong Kong will be the Azkals' toughest challenge followed by Chinese Taipei.

2. The top veteran players are available for the tournament, including Borromeo, Caligdong, and Araneta. Araneta was the top scorer at the tournament last year, and is a significant weapon in the Azkal’s arsenal. They will be beefed up with new addition Angel Guirado, a regular during the AFC Challenge Cup and World Cup qualifying campaigns. He brings an added dimension to the Azkals' quality of play and offense.

3. The team is doing an increasingly better job on defense. James Younghusband has been tested on central defense by Coach Weiss and has brought added pace and passing ability to the defense. His versatility will be an asset for the team and will provide cover for the Europe based defensive players who can't make it to this tournament.

4. Their growing experience will start to pay off. Their tough defeat by Kuwait was by a highly ranked team but they gained a great deal of experience and gelled as a team.

5. Dan Palami and Michael Weiss provide solid leadership and sound strategy for advancing the team in the world cup rankings. They understand the importance of the Long Teng Cup and will be fielding the best possible team.

6. The team undeniably has great heart. Their recent run in the World Cup qualifiers showed Filipinos that they’re going to go out and play hard, no matter what. While it may not be enough at times against clearly superior opponents, but it will pay big dividends against more evenly matched opponents.

7. The team knows it can win this cup. The Azkals are a team with heart – that much is clear. They are also on a bit of a run. And last but not least, they know they have a real opportunity to win this cup. This should drive and motivate their play and energy enough to drive them to victory.

8. In addition to all of the above factors going in their favour, their recent wins in the I Can Serve Foundation Football Invitational should set a great tone, particularly the solid defeat of Kaya Cignal FC. Coming off a win is a great way to go into an important tournament.

The Azkal’s still face a lot of challenges in their development. Still ranked at 166, their hardly an odds on favourite in most international matches and tournaments. But the Long Teng Cup is a bit different. The challengers are serious, but not out of the Azkal’s league. They have a great chance to win. Go Pilipinas!

2011 Moira G Gallaga©

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