The Philippine national men’s football team dropped its first assignment in its 10-day Middle East tour, succumbing 3-0 to the Uzbekistan Under-23 squad at the Al Nasr Sports Club in Dubai Saturday.
The Azkals, who are in the midst of preparing for the AFC Challenge Cup next month, conceded an early 12th minute goal to Kenja Turaev. The Uzbekistan team, which is aiming to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, dominated the possession in the first half, allowing Ivan Nagaev to beat James Younghusband, a midfielder playing an unfamiliar defender role, find the back of the net again shortly before the break.
The Philippine side looked more energized after the break, but with Angel Guirado nearly scoring early in the second half.
But the superior quality of the Uzbeks allowed them to continue their dominance in the second half. It led to yet another breakdown for the Azkals, as Nagaev completed his brace not long after Guirado’s attempt.
Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss tried to temper expectations for the squad prior to the game, saying his side is far from tip-top form.
“As you can see, they’re not yet 100 percent. We’re still adjusting after a long trip and we’re also adjusting to the weather and the environment. We’ll get better as the days go by and we have players coming in from Europe so we’ll see,” Weiss told InterAKTV before the match.
The loss to the Uzbek side was not completely unexpected, as Weiss said that the team was going up against superior competition to toughen them up for next month’s tournament.
“We always made sure last year we play opposition that is stronger than us. That’s why we have Australia and Uzbekistan now to physically challenge the players, because [the] local league [is weak] and domestically we’re at a very low level,” added Weiss.