Azkals, U-22 team push training to high gear
Two Philippine teams rev up their preparations for two tournaments late this year with the senior national team facing China in an international friendly on Friday in Guangzhou, and the Under-22 squad vying in the Merlion Cup in Singapore.
The Azkals, boosted by the arrival of several new recruits, are using the match against China at Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou as a warmup for the World Cup qualifiers starting in September.
More importantly, the Azkals are hoping to end a five-match losing skid that started last December in the AFF Suzuki Cup and stretched all the way to the Asian Cup in a loss against Kyrgyzstan.
It will be the third meeting in two years between the two countries, with China winning both matches.
The Chinese drubbed the Azkals, 8-1, in the same stadium two years ago, before scoring an emphatic 3-0 win in the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Led by Ateneo star and UAAP Most Valuable Player Jarvey Gayoso, the Under-22 Azkals will kick off their preparations for the Southeast Asian Games late this year in the four-nation Merlion Cup.
Coached by Marlon Maro, the Filipinos face host Singapore at 7:45 p.m. at Jalan Besar Stadium with the winner taking on the survivor of the Thailand-Indonesia U-22 match.
Gayoso, who led Ateneo to its second title in three years last month in the UAAP, sees the tournament as a great opportunity to work on their cohesion.
“It was good that we are able to familiarize ourselves and we are able to understand the way each and everyone of us plays,” Gayoso said. “This Merlion Cup is a great opportunity for us because we are looking forward in competing in the SEA Games. We need a lot more games especially if we want to do well in the SEA Games and this is one opportunity we can make most out of in terms of experience.”
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