The Philippines wants to bring the AFC Challenge Cup – the tournament that served as venue for the Azkals’ milestone bronze medal last March – to local shores.
“We will bid for the hosting of one of the qualifying group stages of the Challenge Cup somewhere between the periods March 2-17, 2013,” Philippine Football Federation Nonong Araneta said yesterday.
The qualifiers will feature a bunch of four nations playing in a single round robin (league system) with the top two teams advancing to the Challenge Cup’s final round in 2014.
“And if we do qualify for the final, we will also bid to host it in 2014,” said Araneta.
The Azkals hope to take advantage of the homecourt edge to boost their chances in the bootfest among developing football nations, with the end goal of possibly reaching the 2015 Asian Cup. Champion of the 2014 Challenge Cup gets rewarded with a spot to the top-tier competition against the likes of reigning titlist Japan and powerhouses Australia and South Korea.
In the last Challenge Cup, the Azkals had to go through playoff for a place in the qualifying stage, beating Mongolia on aggregate, 3-2. They then placed second to Palestine in Group A to reach the final round in Nepal, where they surprised the field with victories over former champs India and Takijistan to advance to the semis.
After losing to Turkmenistan in the semis, the Pinoys beat Palestine for a rare podium finish for Phl football