Azkals face tough Bahrain in friendlyBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
As the AFF Suzuki Cup draws near, the strength of the opposition in its buildup also gets stronger for the Philippines.
The Azkals, buoyed by the return of experienced players, face a formidable Bahrain side in a friendly Friday at the Al-Muharraq Stadium in Manama, Bahrain.
The match slated at 6:30 p.m. (12 midnight Saturday in Manila) caps the five-day Azkals’ camp hosted by the Bahrain Football Association.
The Azkals, who are grouped with Thailand, Vietnam and the top qualifier in Group A of the Suzuki Cup next month, will fly to Kuwait on Saturday to continue their preparations, before facing the Kuwaitis on Oct. 16 for their first meeting since their World Cup Qualifying clash last year.
The Azkals already played Bahrain’s Under-23 side twice in their preparation for the World Cup Qualifying match against Kuwait last year, but lost twice without their key players.
Bahrain came within a win of reaching the 2010 World Cup, losing only to New Zealand in a playoff, and was seeded straight to the third round of the Asian qualifying stage for the 2014 tournament.
“We’re happy that the team is getting the chance to play a quality opponent in Bahrain,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami. “The team can only learn from this experience which we hope will come in handy in the Suzuki Cup.”
Phil and James Younghusband have been ruled out of the clash because of a scheduling conflict, forcing the Philippine Football Federation to fly them straight to Kuwait on Friday.
Coach Michael Weiss has depth on his side following the return of Europe-based Paul Mulders, Jerry Lucena, Dennis Cagara, Roland Muller, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado and Ray Jonsson.