Suzuki Cup major goal of Azkals
HARD-PRESSED to finally win its first major tournament, the Philippines is leaving no stone unturned in its buildup for the AFF Suzuki Cup late this year.
The Azkals will use the four-nation Philippine Peace Cup and a couple of training camps overseas to make sure they go to battle against Southeast Asia’s finest in fighting form.
“We’re ranked No. 1 in Southeast Asia and I hope we live up to that ranking,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami. “That’s the challenge to the coach and the team and a challenge we intend to conquer.”
Grouped with Vietnam, Indonesia and the No. 2 team of the qualifying round in Hanoi, the Azkals are in what is considered the lighter of the two brackets in the tournament.
But while coach Thomas Dooley said the group gives the side confidence to advance, it won’t be any easier for the Azkals.
“On paper, we may have the easier group but we need to prepare for every game like it’s the last,” said Dooley. “We can’t expect to win. It will be all about performance.”
The Azkals mentor cranked up the pressure on the team, saying the Azkals have to win it this year.
“Anything is possible (in Suzuki Cup), but we have to win it now,” he said. “It’s the pressure we have to live with.”
Apart from playing the strongest field to see action in the Peace Cup from Sept. 3 to 9 at Rizal Memorial Stadium, the Azkals are also slated to face the Canadian national team in Vancouver and the United States Under-23 side in California in October. Another training camp is slated in Qatar before the start of the Nov. 22 to 28 Suzuki Cup.
AFC Challenge Cup champion Palestine headlines the Peace Cup that will also feature Chinese-Taipei and Myanmar.
“Our experience in the Challenge Cup gave us a glimpse on areas we need to improve on,” said Palami. “We have to prepare well (for Suzuki Cup).
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