Manila: Both the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam will be looking for their first points in Group A of the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022 as they face each other at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on Friday. 

Coming into the 14th edition of the AFF Championship with a revamped squad featuring only four players with more than 14 international caps, the Azkals fell to a 3-2 defeat to Cambodia in Phnom Penh in what was Josep Ferre’s first competitive match in charge of his new team. 

Brunei DS, meanwhile, were up against the might of defending champions Thailand in their opener. The game almost produced a respectable scoreline for them as they trailed the War Elephants by only two goals with two minutes left to play, but a late flurry from the six-time champions condemned them to a 5-0 loss. 

Mario Rivera’s side will once again rely heavily on the goalkeeping heroics of Haimie Abdullah Nyaring as they look to earn their first points on their return to the AFF Championship after a gap of 26 years. 

The Brunei DS goal was bombarded by Thai attacks on Tuesday, but Haimie was at the top of his game to keep the damages in check. A good display in the defence, to go with the solid gloves of Haimie, may just provide them an opportunity to nick something from an inexperienced Philippines side. 

One thing the Hornets have on their side, however, is history. The two teams have only met once in the tournament before and it was Brunei DS who emerged victorious on that ocassion in the group stage of the inaugural 1996 AFF Championship hosted by Singapore. 

At the old National Stadium in Kallang, Irwan Mohammad scored the only goal of the game in the first half as Brunei DS edged Noel Casilao’s Philippines 1-0. The result remains their only win and points in the event to date. 

To avoid a repeat of that defeat in Manila, Philippines head coach Ferre will want to see more organisation from the Azkals backline that featured Yrick Gallantes, Jefferson Tabinas, Amani Aguinaldo and Simen Lyngbo against the Angkor Warriors.

The Spanish tactician will also want to build on the attacking intent shown by his players against Ryu Hirose’s side – United City attacker Kenshiro Daniels was one of the standouts with a brace in the opening day defeat. 

As the Rizal Memorial Stadium hosts the Philippines in the AFF Championship for the first time since their 2014 semi-final meeting with Thailand, the Azkals faithful will hope for a winning return to Manila for their national team come Friday.