MANILA, Philippines — Only the best preparation will suffice for the most important tournament yet for the Philippine Azkals.
Acknowledging the importance of the task at hand, the Philippine Azkals will leave no stone unturned in their buildup for the AFC Challenge Cup finals in the Maldives in May.
The Azkals are slated to hold camps in the Middle East, Pakistan and possibly, Europe, before plunging into action in the eight-team finals where a ticket to the AFC Asian Cup will be at stake.
By May, the Azkals are hoping to already have at least 10 friendly matches under their belts in preparation for the tournament, which is one of two major events this year for the team that will also compete in the AFF Suzuki Cup in November.
A friendly against Southeast Asian powerhouse Malaysia or Vietnam is already being planned on the first week of March, apart from invitational tournaments in the Middle East during the Azkals camp there.
“It’s important that the team gets to play as many matches as possible,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami. “We see this year’s Challenge Cup as our best chance to reach the Asian Cup for the first time.”
There’s an air of optimism in the Azkals camp as the team will have a full-strength side in the Challenge Cup slated May 19 to 30. With the European football season over, the likes of Stephan Schrock and Neil Etheridge should be able to rejoin the national squad.