By Jonas Terrado
(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
8 p.m. – Timor-Leste vs Philippines
Neil Etheridge will look to put the Philippine Azkals in good position to qualify for the semifinals when they go for a second straight win against Timor-Leste tonight in the AFF Suzuki Cup at the Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The veteran goalkeeper is expected to man the fort for the Azkals in the 8 p.m. match before heading back to Wales to resume his historic English Premier League stint with Cardiff City.
Etheridge, 28, was allowed to represent the country as the first two matches of the group stage are scheduled under the FIFA international window. Clubs are mandated to release their players for national team duties during the said window.
But before taking a lengthy flight back to Cardiff, Etheridge is hoping to play a major role in the Azkals’ bid to secure a second straight win in Group B.
The Azkals opened their campaign last Tuesday with a breakthrough 1-0 victory over Singapore at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City courtesy of Patrick Reichelt’s goal in the 78th minute.
Coach Sven-Goran Erikkson is hoping for a better showing for the Azkals despite being the odds-on favorite against a Timor-Leste side that lost its first two matches.
In the Suzuki Cup group stage for the first time ever, Timor-Leste lost 7-0 to defending champion Thailand in the opener before falling 3-1 to Indonesia.
Timor-Leste is playing its home match in the Malaysian capital after Suzuki Cup organizers declared its home pitch in Dili as not “match ready”, owing to incomplete floodlighting.
Phil Younghusband is expected to lead the Azkals into battle as they take a crack at a win before returning home for Wednesday’s marquee match with Thailand in Panaad.