Azkals pick up stride with Peace Cup, friendlies

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With the AFC Challenge Cup only a few months away, the Philippine Azkals are set for a busy final quarter of the year with the Philippine Peace Cup and a series of friendlies against high-level teams to prepare them for the major tournament that dangles a spot in the Asian Cup.

Azkals manager Dan Palami said preparations for the Challenge Cup will already kick into high gear in the final quarter of 2013 as the team braces for a tough battle in the Challenge Cup in the Maldives in March.

“The target is to win the tournament and reach the Asian Cup,” said Palami, who hinted at regular training sessions for the Azkals even at the middle of the United Football League season just to whip the side into fighting form.

After the friendly match against Indonesia last Wednesday in Solo, Central Java, where the Azkals lost, 0-2, the Philippine Football Federation is now eyeing a friendly against New Zealand and its neighbor New Caledonia for September.

The Azkals will also be in action the following month when they defend their Philippine Peace Cup title from Oct. 11 to 15 in Bacolod City, which is hosting an international match for the first time since the Guam-Philippines game in June last year.

Philippine Football Federation general-secretary Ed Gastanes said they are looking at Challenge Cup qualifier Kyrgyzstan as a possible participant in the Peace Cup.

New Caledonia will also be invited for the five-day tournament if the friendly against the New Caledonians does not push through next month.

The Azkals ruled the Peace Cup last year, besting Chinese-Taipei, Guam and Macau at Rizal Memorial Stadium. Gastanes said the PFF will invite one of the teams that saw action last year to complete the cast in Bacolod.

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