The Loyola Meralco Sparks battle Myanmar club Kanbawza FC in the first leg of the 2012 Singapore Cup quarterfinals Thursday at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.
Being the only Filipino club among the eight teams remaining, the Sparks aim to make a deep run in the tournament to prove that football in the Philippines has vastly developed.
“We want to show our Southeast Asian neighbors that apart from our national team’s improvement, the clubs are not far behind,” midfielder Anto Gonzales said. “We really want to make our countrymen proud.”
Loyola entered the quarterfinals after escaping with a 2-1 victory over Singapore club Geylang United FC in the preliminary stage last May anchored on the heroics of South Korean import Park Min-Ho, who scored the winning goal in extra time.
The Sparks, however, face a daunting task in containing the dangerous Kanbawza, led by Myanmar football star striker Soe Min Oo, who led his team to the quarterfinals after a 2-1 triumph over Woodlands Wellington FC.
“We’re underdogs here, no doubt,” team captain James Younghusband said. “But we will be ready to play our best because this is new territory we’re charting here.”
Loyola also added Eric Giganto and Michael Menzi from Far Eastern University to further bolster the team, which will be led by brothers Phil and James Younghusband, as well as former national team members Gonzales, Roxy Dorlas and Jake Morallo.
To advance to the semifinals, the Sparks need to win on aggregate by scoring more goals against Kanbawza in the two-leg match. The second leg will be on July 8, also at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.
Aside from S.League teams, the 2012 Singapore Cup also features foreign clubs from Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia and Myanmar.
According to AKTV brand manager Joanne Ignacio, the organizers are not providing live coverage of the matches, leaving the channel unable to air the two-leg series. However, AKTV will take the live coverage option should the Sparks make it to the semis.
Sponsored by Cebu Pacific, Meralco and Gatorade, Loyola is the first Philippine squad to participate in an international football club competition.
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