Football

Azkals brace for ‘aggressive’ 50k-strong hometown crowd in Pyongyang

InterAksyon.com/Karl Decena

InterAksyon.com/Karl Decena

PYONGYANG — Members of the Philippine national men’s football team are preparing themselves for what they believe as one of the most “aggressive” crowds they’ll ever face as they take on North Korea on Thursday.

No more than 50,000 fans are expected to troop to the Kim Il-sung Stadium to support the home team and cause some troubles for coach Thomas Dooley and his squad.

“It’ll be difficult because of the 50,000 people in the stadium, it will be difficult to play against them,” Dooley said.

He added that the North Korean fans are unique as they are able to be consistently loud from kick-off until the final whistle.

“First of all, it will be very loud. Second of all, it will be a bit noisy and we can’t talk each other on the field and guide each other, they won’t stop,” Dooley said.

“I can’t see that. When you play in Europe, when you play bad and then (with all the) people whistling and booing you all, I don’t think that’s gonna happen here because that’s not in their nature. They’re pushing the team for 95 minutes or so. It will be from the beginning to end, the same push.”

Azkals midfielder Misagh Bahadoran also foresees the team’s difficulties in dealing with the spectators and also the stadium which he believes can further boost home side’s advantage.

“We have faced more crowd before, I think it’s gonna be a different crowd because they are so disciplined and aggressive,” Bahadoran said. “Also the way they cheer for the team, the seats are very near to the pitch, the echo is very strong there.

“If there’s 50,000 fans shouting, it will look like 100,000 thousand fans shouting. It’s gonna be hard in communicating players on the pitch.”

Despite the massive hometown disadvantage, the Azkals won’t be the only Filipinos in the stadium as five brave OFWs based here will cheer for the squad.

Dooley already has a gameplan in mind as the Azkals try to score a massive upset against North Korea, a side which they have yet to beat.

“When in 20-30 minutes we keep them away, I think there’s a good chance for us to do something here,” Dooley said.

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