For Philippine men’s national footbal team coach Michael Weiss, some home cooking is just what the Azkals need after a month out of the country. With Manila playing host to a FIFA World Cup qualifying match for the first time in history, the German mentor says that there is no pressure on the team or the players, “only excitement and happiness.”
It’s an interesting assertion, considering that after a tense 1-1 draw against Sri Lanka in Colombo, everything is at stake at Sunday’s game at the refurbished Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Having already played 90 minutes of football on the pitch, both teams will have scouted each other more thoroughly and will have had time to adjust strategies and tactics accordingly.
On the other side, Sri Lanka coach Jang Jung remained upbeat about his team’s chances. “We know the crowd will be against us,” he said. “Doesn’t matter. We want to win the match. We are ready.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Sri Lankan ambassador to the Philippines, Nwalage Bennet Cooray, who has been following the tie with keen interest. Cooray was a right winger himself for the Sri Lankan local side Red Star Angoda Football Club.
“I think Sri Lanka will play well, they have a good chance to win,” he said. “They now have had experience (playing with the Philippines. They know their weaknesses; they will adjust accordingly.”
According to Cooray, around 100 Sri Lankan nationals are expected to attend the game on Sunday to cheer on the Brave Reds.
Their cheers should be drowned out by the expected sellout crowd at the stadium, led by the Kaholeros, a group organized to lead the cheers in what would be the Manila’s coming-out party for international football.