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Philippines eyes revenge against Iraq at home turf

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Match Tuesday(Rizal Memorial Stadium)7 p.m. — Philippines vs Iraq

AFTER a close loss to Iraq in Basra, embattled Philippines aims to see its upset plans through on familiar grounds when it faces off with the Asian power again tonight in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The 139th-ranked Filipinos generally held their own against the No. 59 Iraqis in their first gig under new coach Tom Saintfiet, who is barely a month into the job, and were only undone by the 84th-minute winner of Mohanad Ali in the challenging away game in front of a 63,750-strong crowd.

“I’m impressed with my players that in a short period of time, we could be difficult opponents for Iraq. Hopefully, we get to surprise Iraq in Manila again,” said Mr. Saintfiet, whose troops are in desperate need of a win to keep their aspirations for the next round alive.

The Filipinos occupy fourth in Group F with one point off a draw against two losses and are pressed to turn things around in the last three games, beginning with the 7 p.m. home outing at Rizal.

The Lions of Mesopotamia, who opened their campaign with victories over Indonesia (5-1), Vietnam (1-0) and the Philippines (1-0) for a leading nine points, can advance with two matches to spare by taking care of business in Manila.

The Filipinos hope to get around 10,000 supporters inside the venue for added energy in their must-win predicament. Previously, 10,378 fans went to Rizal in the team’s 0-2 loss to Vietnam and another 9,880 in a 1-1 draw against Indonesia last November.

“We need the fans. We need the stadium full against Iraq. Hopefully we can fill up the stadium because it will give us the drive to push even more, to go the extra mile to win the game,” said midfielder Kevin Ingreso. — Olmin Leyba

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