AFF Suzuki Cup 2012: Azkals vs Vietnam preview

James Younghusband, Dennis Cagara, and Ed Sacapano in Monday's training. Image Copyright Bob Guerrero.

BANGKOK - Sadly I don't have any memories of watching the Miracle of Hanoi from 2010. While the Azkals were playing Vietnam in My Dinh stadium I was on an evening flight to Doha, Qatar, enroute to Muscat, Oman, where I commentated on Beach Handball for the Asian Beach Games with ESPNStar.

A few days earlier I had shouted myself hoarse in Barcino, BGC as Chris Greatwich's late equalizer allowed the Philippines to split the points with Singapore. For me, that would have sufficed for the 2010 Suzuki Cup campaign.

As I landed in Doha's surprisingly antiquated airport at three in the morning Philippine time I immediately whipped open my netbook and tried my best to get a wifi signal.  It was slow, but eventually the shocking result appeared on my screen: Philippines 2, Vietnam 0.

Greatwich struck again that day with a cheeky angled header, while Phil Younghusband scored a superb second goal, a terrific team effort that included touches from Roel Gener, Greatwich, and Ian Araneta.

That game was a seismic event in the history of Philippine Football. The reverberations of December 5, 2010 still echo on today. The brave showing by those eleven men will be celebrated for decades, as it reignited a passion for the game in our country.

The teams meet again tomorrow, but much will have changed.

The Azkals are no longer the surprise team. And momentum is not on their side after a 2-1 loss to Thailand, a scoreline that does not reflect how the team was comprehensively outplayed.

The Philippines is also having injury and sickness issues. Denis Wolf hurt his ankle before the Thailand match and is still listed as day-to-day for Tuesday.  In training on Monday he did not appear to favor either foot, but the Fil-German striker is unlikely to start.

Demit Omphroy is slowly recovering from a relapse of the flu and is also looking at spending Tuesday on the bench. He did participate in some of Monday's training.

Carli De Murga is near match fitness after straining his Iliotibial Band and may get some playing time.

Phil Younghusband had to be subbed out on Saturday after sustaining two gashes on his face from two different incidents against Thailand. He was sporting a small bandage in training above his eye and is likely to make the starting eleven.

Patrick Reichelt suffered a freak injury in the scrimmage off an accidental collision with Angel Guirado. The midfielder has may have broken two teeth, one on each side of his mouth and told me he was in "unbelievable pain" while clutching a bag of ice to his jaw. He said that even touching the teeth with his tongue was extremely painful.

Dr. Bahadoran asks Patrick Reichelt to open wide. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.
Misagh Bahadoran, a dentistry graduate and apparently the team's unofficial team Dentist, examined Reichelt's teeth.

There have been reports that Reichelt was rushed to the hospital and it is not known whether he can play at all tomorrow. If he cannot start then that could pave the way for another start for James Younghusband.

Other the only injury of note is a mildly twisted right ankle on reserve keeper Ref Cuaresma sustained in the scrimmage. Juani Guirado seems to be unhampered by a knock on the face and his own ankle issue. Jason Sabio scrimmaged well and seems to be recovering nicely.

Marwin Angeles. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.
Based on what we saw in practice, don't be surprised if Jeff Christiaens gets the start over Chieffy Caligdong at left wing, while Marwin Angeles may also get called upon to start.

This will be the eighth meeting between the two teams at the senior level. I watched the very first one, in 1991 at Rizal Memorial, during the SEA Games when SEA Games Football was still between full senior sides and not U23 teams.   That game, a 2-2 draw, and the 2010 win serve as bookends to the five losses the Philippines suffered at the hands of the Viets in between.

The only goal scored in those five  games was Richard Canedo's late breakaway strike in the 4-1 loss in Jakarta at the 2002 Tiger Cup. Richard Canedo is the brother of Boyet, who plays for Pachanga in the UFL. Earlier on that day goalkeeper Tats Mercado saved a penalty.

There are five players from the 2010 starting lineup who will likely start on Tuesday: goalie Duong Hong Son and midfielders Le Tan Tai and Pham Thanh Luong.

Le scored in Vietnam's disappointing 1-1 draw with Myanmar last Saturday.

Le Cong Vinh is Vietnam's leading striker with 31 career goals for Vietnam, who are nicknamed The Red Warriors.  He is best-known among Vietnam fans for his late winner in the second leg of the Suzuki Cup finals against 2008, when they defeated arch-rival Thailand 3-2 on aggregate to lift the Suzuki Cup for the first and only time.

Watch out for midfielder Phan Thanh Hung, who impressed me in the game against Myanmar with a sensational turn and shot from well clear of the penalty area that rattled the crossbar.

Football players have long memories. For sure Vietnam will be eager to exorcise the ghosts of 2010 with a big win.

For the Philippines it will be a chance to get this campaign back on track after the opening-day loss to the Thais.

The Azkals can afford to just draw, but that leaves us at the mercy of other results even if we defeat Myanmar on Friday. A loss almost surely eliminates the Philippines, barring some highly unlikely mathematical scenarios.

Watch the game at 6pm Philippine time on Tuesday on either AKTV or ESNPStar. Follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.

Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.

More Yahoo! PH Sports blogs:

All-UAAP finale for PCCL

The Azkals versus Thailand: One Fan's Story

Against orders: Doing back-to-back races

What a game!

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