Busy Suzuki buildup schedule for AzkalsBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines will face Cambodia on Sept. 7 in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh as part of its preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, who confirmed the friendly to the Inquirer, said the Azkals have also been invited to play Laos two days later in Vientiane.
The two matches are part of the Azkals’ extensive buildup for the prestigious Suzuki Cup from Nov. 24 to 30 in Bangkok. Unlike in their campaign a couple of years ago where they took the tournament by storm, the Azkals are among the darkhorses after a run of good results the past two years which started with a historic semifinal appearance in the Suzuki Cup.
The Azkals landed in a tough group in the Thai capital, where they will battle Thailand and Vietnam as well as the top team from group qualifying.
Cambodia is one of the five teams vying for two spots in the group stages, which will also be hosted by Malaysia.
Araneta said the Azkals’ participation in the tough Nehru Cup in India next month will be finalized within the week.
The Azkals are also flying to the United States in August for two matches—against Chicago Inferno on Aug. 11 in Chicago and the US Virgin Islands on Aug. 17 in Indianapolis.
There is also a pending invitation to join the Merdeka Cup in Indonesia in October, and a planned friendly against Singapore in Cebu in November.
Meanwhile, Araneta said the PFF is now looking at Pakistan as the fourth team to complete the cast in the Long Teng Cup, which could be moved to an earlier schedule in September.
Hong Kong has already begged off from joining the tournament it won last year in Kaohsiung. Araneta said the move to reschedule the tournament was meant to avoid a scheduling conflict with the Singapore Cup semifinal matches of the Loyola Meralco Sparks on the first week of October.