Azkals invited to vie in tough India tiltBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
THE PHILIPPINE men’s football team may cut short its training camp in the United States to join a formidable field in the Nehru Cup in India from Aug. 22 to Sept. 2.
The Azkals are set to play at least three matches in the US from Aug. 10 to 25, but Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta told the Inquirer they might accept the Indian invitation, which was coursed through former PFF general secretary Domeka Garamendi, who now works for the International Football Federation.
The Azkals are hoping to get the best possible preparation for the AFF Suzuki Cup late this year as they try to at least match their historic semifinal finish two years ago.
One factor that could persuade the PFF to join the Nehru Cup is the participation of pedigreed sides like Jordan, Syria and Kenya in the tournament.
Along with host India, which the Philippines defeated in the AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal, the other country that has confirmed its participation thus far is Maldives, which also failed to make it out of the group stage of the AFC Challenge.
Strong teams like Cameroon, Nigeria, Thailand, Costa Rica, Malaysia, and Zambia were also invited to the tournament in India.
“This is still a positive sign for us because we are getting an invitation to such a strong tournament,” said Araneta, who is in Bangkok for the AFF Suzuki Cup draw today.
The Suzuki Cup kicks off Nov. 21 in Thailand and Malaysia with the Azkals already seeded to the group stage, owing to their surprise semifinal finish two years ago.
Speaking at the PSA Forum presented by Smart, Pagcor and Shakey’s at Shakey’s UN Avenue in Manila, PFF marketing and communications head Ebong Joson said Malaysia and Thailand will be in one pot, while Vietnam and Indonesia will be in another.
The Philippines and Singapore are in pot three, while the two qualifiers will be in the fourth pot.