By Cedelf P. Tupas
MANILA—Nepal looms as the Philippine Azkals’ next opponent in a home match tentatively set October 11 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
After earlier turning down the invitation of the Philippine Football Federation, Nepal has now agreed to take on the Azkals, although the date has yet to be finalized, according to PFF president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta.
Nepal wanted to play the Azkals on October 13, but Araneta said that by that time, the international break would already be over and the Europe-based players will be recalled by their clubs.
India has also responded positively to the PFF’s invitation, while Pakistan earlier offered to play the Azkals on October 9.
But Nepal has the inside track since it will be hosting next year’s AFC Challenge Cup and also has a better ranking at 136, 26 places higher than the Azkals.
“Nepal will be a good test for the team,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami, whose squad is flying to Bacolod today for a week-long training camp.
The Azkals are also playing in the Challenge Cup next year and the friendly will give the Azkals a glimpse of the competition in Kathmandu in March.
The Azkals face a hectic schedule starting September 30 when they play Hong Kong in the Long Teng Cup in Taiwan.
They will also battle Chinese-Taipei on October 2 and Macau on October 4, before flying to Singapore for a friendly with the Southeast Asian powerhouse on October 6.
Meanwhile, Palami has released the provisional 35-man list for the Southeast Asian Games that includes three Filipino-Belgian newcomers in winger Jeffrey Christiaens, Angelo Verheye, Johan Van Bossche, Fil-Spanish defender Carlos Martinez de Murga, Fil-British brothers Matthew and Mark Hartmann and Fil-American OJ Porteria.
Senior team mainstays Jason de Jong, Manny Ott and Neil Etheridge are also in the shortlist along with other Fil-Germans Roland Mueller, Mark Drinkuth and Patrick Hinrichsen.
The locals in the list are David Basa, Yannick Tuason, OJ Clarino, Deo Segunial, Stephen Permanes, Jinggoy Valmayor, Raymark Fernandez, Christopher Camcam, Francis Gustilo, Romeo Martinez, Vince Braga, Joshua Beloya, Aldrin Dolino, Lemuel Unabia, Joven Bedic, Jake Morallo and Jerry Barbaso.
Filipino-Italian brothers Marwin and Marvin Angeles are also in the shortlist.