The 2014 FIFA World Cup in the land of futbol and samba is about three years away but the road to Rio will begin on June 29 for the Philippine Azkals as they take on the dangerous Red Lions of Sri Lanka in their football pitch at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo. The winner of this match will have an advantage in wrapping up this home-away series on July 3 or 4 in the Philippines.
It is expected that the Azkals of the likes of Phil and James Younghusband, Aly Borromeo, Rob Gier, Chieffy Caligdong, and Ian Araneta will be in a tough battle as they face the Sri Lankan team supported by a boisterous and hostile crowd. Though known for their exploits in cricket, Sri Lanka were two-time semifinalists in the South Asia Football Federation cup.
The Philippines did not joined the 2010 World Cup qualifiers while Sri Lanka was eliminated by future World Cup hosts Qatar 6-0 in aggregate legs. It is difficult to gauge both teams as they never met in any competition before. If we are to base their previous performances, both teams have defeated Bangladesh with the same scoreline (3-0) early thins year. It is possible that both teams are evenly match.
The Red Lions and Azkals have high scoring players in the likes of W. D. R. D. Ruwanthilaka (pictured above) and teenage sensation Viyasar Thevarajah for the Sri Lankans and Phil Younghusband and Angel Guirado for the Azkals. The defense of Caligdong, Borromeo, and company will also be tested by the veteran and formidable Sri Lankan midfielders Mohamed Mohamed Izzadeen, Chathura Maduranga, and Asmeer Lathif Mohamed.
The winner of the series will meet Kuwait in the next round for another home-away series with the victor going into the group stage of the World Cup Qualifiers.