MANILA, Philippines – Vietnam, the ASEAN power that the unheralded Philippine Azkals ambushed in the group stages of the AFF Suzuki Cup back in 2010, wants a crack at the Pinoy booters before they embark on their campaign in this year's Suzuki Cup.
"Vietnam has invited us to play a friendly in Vietnam," said Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta, who received the invite from his Vietnamese counterparts when he and Monico Puentevella director of the Fifa marketing and television committee attended the Fifa Congress recently in Budapest.
The Azkals had made the Vietnamese some sort of stepping stone to fame in 2010, hacking out a monumental 2-0 shocker over the then defending Suzuki Cup champions before 40,000 fans at the My Dinh National Stadium.
That epic victory paved the way for a breakthrough semis stint for the Azkals, who went on to make inroads in other tourneys spiked by a bronze medal in the AFC Challenge Cup last March in Nepal.
Aside from Vietnam, which is the highest-ranked ASEAN nation in the Fifa world rankings at 97th, Araneta said representatives from Bahrain and Indonesia have also asked him for a shot at the Azkals (148th). As of posting time, the Indons are playing the Azkals at Rizal Memorial tonight and the Merah Putih would want a Round 2 in Indonesia later in the year.
"They (Vietnam, Bahrain and Indonesia) want to play us anytime during the next Fifa match days," said Araneta, referring to the next international friendlies slates in the Fifa calendar, Aug. 15, Sept. 7-11, and October 12-16.
"We still have to discuss it with (Azkals team manager) Dan (Palami)," the PFF chief said.