Reigning AFF Suzuki Cup champion Malaysia looms as the first side that will test the mettle of the Philippine Azkals following the Pinoys’ historic bronze medal showing in the AFC Challenge Cup.
“Malaysia has invited us to play a friendly in Kuala Lumpur on June 1 and more or less, we’ll (accept the invite and) go there,” Philippine Football Federation (PFF president) Nonong Araneta told The STAR yesterday.
“I’ve had initial talks with (Azkals team manager) Dan (Palami) and he’s okay with this,” he added of what could be a rematch of the international friendly that two nations played at the Rizal Memorial last Feb. 29.
The Azkals and the Tigers battled to a 1-1 standoff two months ago.
The prospective gig could provide a good opening salvo and test for the Azkals as they get back to the pitch after breaking camp following their milestone campaign in the Nepal Challenge Cup.
Enjoying an all-time best position in the Fifa world rankings at 148th, the Azkals will now train their sights on the Suzuki Cup set later in the year and their idea of a buildup opener is to challenge ASEAN rivals, led by 156th-ranked Malaysia Tigers, during Fifa’s June calendar days.
The PFF has a standing invitation to Indonesia and Thailand for possible matches on June 5 and 12 in Phl.
“I’ll be talking further to officials of Indonesia and Thailand when they go here for the AFC Council meeting on April 21 and 22 (to persuade them),” Araneta said.
China has also been invited to come over but has yet to respond, according to the PFF chief.
Araneta, meanwhile, said PFF’s technical people will go to Bacolod City after the AFC gab to assess Panaad Stadium’s capability to host one of the projected friendlies.
“We might hold the June 5 match to Bacolod. We’ll send people to make an assessment and we’ll also require numbered seats,” he said.
Panaad was the home field when the Azkals beat Mongolia last year, 2-0, in the first leg of the AFC Challenge Cup playoffs. The stadium was packed with 18,000 paying fans but for the Azkals’ projected return, only about 10,400 “seated” spectators will be accommodated, according to Araneta.