MANILA – A busy year beckons for the Philippine Azkals as exhibition matches against foreign clubs have been lined up in preparation for two major international tournaments.
National team manager Dan Palami, who spoke at the PSA Forum at Shakey's U.N. Avenue in Ermita, Manila Tuesday, said the Azkals will kick off 2012 with a friendly match against a Spanish third division squad on January 7 at the Rizal Memorial football stadium.
The Azkals, who lost to the David Beckham-led Los Angeles Galaxy, 1-6, in a goodwill match last Saturday at the same football field, are also using the February 29 international friendly date to play against a country ranked higher than them in the Fifa rankings.
Palami said the possible opponents in the friendly match in February are 2010 World Cup qualifier New Zealand, Malaysia and Vietnam.
The friendly match is part of the preparation for the AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal from March 9 to 13, where the Azkals have been bracketed with North Korea, Tajikistan and India.
The Azkals are also seeing action in the Suzuki Cup Asean Football Championship in December, but unlike in previous tournaments where they needed to go through qualifying, they have gained an automatic slot owing to their semifinal finish in the 2010 edition of the event.
“Despite some debacles, it's been a very successful and active year for Philippine football,” said Palami, noting that the Galaxy's visit was one of the highlights of the year for the Azkals.
“We hope to continue this momentum for us to see the true potential of Philippine football,” added Palami in the weekly forum presented by Smart, PAGCOR, Outlast Battery and Shakey's.
Palami remains hopeful that the Azkals will always have the best possible lineup for every match as most of their key players ply their trade in Europe.
“Slowly, we are developing into a strong team, if we are to overcome the challenge of having all our best players together,” Palami said.
The Azkals team manager said there's a chance that players like Stephan Schrock, Dennis Cagara, Paul Mulders, Jerry Lucena and Neil Etheridge would be available for the Challenge Cup despite the tournament falling on a date which isn't included in the international calendar.
“There's a big possibility that we could have them play as they will miss only one game with their clubs,” Palami said.
This early, Palami is already planning a trip to Europe to convince the owners of the clubs where the Azkals play to release the players for the Challenge Cup and the Suzuki Cup.*PNA
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