Philippines head coach Thomas Dooley has acknowledged that his side have to beat Yemen on Thursday in order to keep their chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup alive.
Philippines currently sit in third place on the Group H standings with seven points and a victory over Yemen could see them move past Uzbekistan and into second spot, depending on the outcome of Uzbekistan's match against group leaders North Korea on Thursday.
Even though Philippines beat Yemen 2-0 when they last met on June 17, Dooley admitted that repeating the result would be no easy feat as he will be without captain Phil Younghusband, who has been suspended, and defender Luke Woodland who joined English side Chester last month.
The Azkals have been preparing for this match, which will be their final one of the year, since November 2 and Dooley feels their preparation has been as good as possible.
“We have to win. It will be very difficult but we have to win,” Dooley told The Manila Times. “I don’t have a team here yet, we will only have 15 players in training and tomorrow we will have 22 players by Tuesday. They will be as ready as they can be [for the match].”
Meanwhile, defender Rob Gier has refused to underestimate Yemen even though they have lost all five of their qualifying matches to date as he knows that they are capable of surprising the Azkals, who have not been in the best of form as of late.
After starting off their 2018 qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win over Bahrain and a 2-0 vcitory over Yemen, Philippines have struggled in their last three matches as they were thrashed 5-1 by Uzbekistan, held to a goalless draw by North Korea and beaten 2-0 in their most recent match against Bahrain on October 13.
However, while Philippines have not performed to the best of their abilities of late, Gier is confident that his side will progress to the next round.
“Despite their current standing they are definitely not a team to be taken lightly, they pose a very real threat and if we are not focused and 100% professional then getting a positive result will be difficult,” Gier said.
“It is our final game of 2015 so it is important to us that we finish the year off well and put in a good, entertaining performance, with a positive result at the end.
“There is no doubt that things are now more difficult but football is a funny game and if there is any team that is capable of producing an upset then it is us.”