With Brunei reportedly pulling out of the AFC Challenge Cup, the Philippines’ task of advancing from Group E Qualifying starting Friday just got tougher.
There will be little room for error with the Azkals needing a sweep of matches against Cambodia and Turkmenistan to avoid complications and secure qualification to the main tournament next year.
Only the top team in the group will qualify for the Maldives event with the two best second-placed teams from among the five groups also advancing along with host Maldives.
Although there is no official word from the AFC on Brunei’s withdrawal, the team has yet to arrive in Manila two days before the tournament.
Philippine Football Federation general secretary Ed Gastanes said the federation has yet to receive an official notice on Brunei’s withdrawal.
Brunei Times report
But a report from the Brunei Times quoting the Sultanate’s Ministry of Youth and Sports said “unavoidable circumstances” have forced them to pull the team out of the tournament.
Brunei was slated to face the Philippines tomorrow at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The Azkals face Cambodia on Sunday before taking on Turkmenistan on Tuesday.
“We would love to have that game against Brunei just for the team to play and build cohesion as we expect tougher matches later on especially against Turkmenistan,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami.
The Azkals played only one match—a 1-0 win against Myanmar last month—in preparation for the tournament.