By FRANCIS SANTIAGO
Booters prepare for qualifying series
After securing a place in the 2012 Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup, the Philippine Azkals will start preparing for the qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
On Friday, the Azkals crushed Bangladesh, 3-0, at the Aung San Stadium in Rangoon, Myanmar to reach the main draw of the Challenge Cup for the first time since the event’s inaugural in 2006.
"We are happy with the win. They gave us another reason to be proud of being Filipinos. It’s a big boost to the Philippine football. Our progress to the main draw only means that we have improved a lot and are continuously developing," said Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Mariano "Nonong" Araneta.
Araneta, however, said they are not going to rest on their laurels, adding that the Azkals will try to sustain their momentum in the World Cup qualifying.
"That will be their next assignment," Araneta said.
The qualifier will be a home-and-away series and the Azkals' opponent for the first of six-rounds will be known only during a draw on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Araneta said the 30,000-seater Rizal Memorial football stadium in Manila and the 15,500-seater Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City are possible venues for the hosting of the home game of the series set June 29 and July 3.
If the Philippines advances, Round 2 is set July 23 and 28.
"It will only be the second time in our history that we will host the qualifier," Araneta said.
The first time was in 2001 when the Philippines played Laos at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City (formerly ULTRA).The game ended in a 1-1 draw and the Filipinos failed to advance.
The Azkals return today minus Filipino-Danish Gerry Lucena who had to fly back to Denmark.
Each member of the team, including the coaches received a bonus of $1,500 each for the victory.
"It was just overwhelming. And the boys are happy as well. We would like to thank the fans for their prayers," Palami said.
The Azkals came into the match needing to win after being held to draws by Palestine (0-0) and Myanmar (1-1).
Striker Ian Araneta put the Azkals ahead after the 41st minute and Fil-Spanish Angel Aldeguer Guirado added two more goals to complete the lopsided win.
It was Araneta’s first goal in 11 matches. He completed a rare hat-trick in the Azkals’ 5-0 thumping of Timor Leste in the Suzuki Cup last year.