Azkals vs Mongolia AFC Challenge Cup Preview Round 1
On Monday, the Mongolian National Football Team arrives for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifying in a home-away match against our very own Azkals. There’s nothing much to say about the team from the East having been one of the youngest teams to join FIFA in 1998. Since 2000, they only have won 5 matches, 3 of which with Guam with an 11-1 victory. Apart from the 5 wins, they also earned 4 draws while the rest of the 20 matches were all lost. Mongolia’s last 2 games on FIFA record were in 2009 against Macau in a home-away match for the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup qualifying. Mongolia lost their first game nil-2 but own it 3-1 on home soil in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, Macau advanced courtesy of the away goal.
Football in Mongolia is almost the same here in the Philippines. It is not as popular as wrestling, archery and horse racing in Mongolia and basketball and boxing here in the Philippines. The only difference maybe is the climate. One of the challenges in Mongolian football is the country’s climate. FIFA President Joseph Blatter said in one of his recent interviews, “It is not easy to play football in Mongolia. The inclement weather often makes pitches unplayable…”. Ulaanbaatar has the lowest average temperature of the capital city in the world, and winters are long and cold, while summers are short. Snow covers the ground for 6 months for the year meaning the domestic league can only run between July and September.
Philippine football is one of the oldest in Asia but only in the recent AFF Suzuki Cup that the Azkals displayed quite an outstanding job. Also, the climate in the Philippines is far better compared to Mongolia. The Azkals may have in a way made football more popular than its rival sport – basketball during their matches against Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia, but this is no time to be over confident. The MFF (Mongolian Football Federation) has only been playing in the international field not so long as the PFF but in FIFA records on average ranking a few years ago, both teams were just 4-5 points away. Now, you do the math on who performed well versus their years on international pitch.
On February 9, it is up to the team and the new coach, Weiss to show our progress as a football nation. Unlike during the AFF Suzuki Cup, the Azkals will have a chance to play in the home soil. But, let us keep in mind that the away goal weighs more than the home goal.
Azkal player to watch: Phil Younghusband – FIL-British forward Phil Younghusband who just recently was sidelined due to hamstring injury has just recovered and is ready for the derby against Mongolia. He scored 12 international goals for the National Team and is the current leading scorer for the team. The question now is he ready after the injury?
Mongolian player to watch: Ganbaataryn Tögsbayar – One of the leading scorers of the Mongol Uls with 6 goals on international derby. In the 2009 and 2010 domestic league, he scored 15 on each season. Although, the striker has not scored any international goals for the last 5 years. He joined the national team in 2003.
Key battle: Donorovyn Lkhümbengarav vs Ian Araneta – Lkhumbengarav is the captain of the Mongolian National Football Team and is one of the top scorers of the team. The 33 years old defender last scored in their 3-1 victory against Macau in 2009. On the other hand, Ian Araneta scored his first international hat-trick during the 2010 Long Teng Cup against Macau in a 5-nil game. A very strong striker and a constant threat up front with his tenacity and eye for goal.
Prediction: Azklas may have the experience compared to Mongolia but the Mongols displayed a pretty decent football for the last 12 years (of joining FIFA) while Azkals just found their form after almost a century. There is so much to say about football history for both national teams, what is important now is how ready they are. Former Azkals Coach Simon McMenemy believes that the boys will win 3-nil. This match is also important to current German Coach Hans Michael Weiss. It will be a make or break challenge for him. All have been said, now let’s see and wait for the results and cheer for our Azkals.
Here’s a head to head FIFA report on both teams.