THE Philippine men’s football team ushers in a new era on Saturday when it squares off against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur for its first friendly of the year.
Former US World Cup captain Thomas Dooley makes his debut as Azkals head coach in the 8:45 p.m. match that jumpstarts the national team’s buildup for the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup.
And no less than a victory against the Filipinos booters’ Southeast Asian neighbors is the goal of the American-German mentor, a proven winner as a player who’s trying to earn the same reputation as a coach.
“I want to win the game. I’m not going there to lose or tie,” said Dooley, who took over the reins just last month from Michael Weiss. “But it’s obviously difficult because we’re trying to form the team, put the system in.”
Dooley has formed a lineup that has a mix of veterans and young blood with Phil Younghusband and Rob Gier as the leaders.
The Azkals also welcome the return of Anton del Rosario, Nate Burkey, Simon Greatwich, and Ruben Doctora Jr. to the fold, while Nick O’Donnell, Kenshiro Daniels, Andrew Liauw, and Simone Rota wear the national jersey for the first time.
Martin Steuble, a Filipino-Swiss midfield recruit, also tries to make a solid impression in his inaugural appearance.
The Azkals are 23 spots ahead of the 150th-ranked Malaysians in the world, but have had a tough time against them in the past, having won only once in 15 matches since 1962 (1-3-11 win-draw-loss card).
The Filipino booters, though, fared better in recent meetings, having forced the Malaysians to two draws in 2012.
While winning is the goal, growth is more important for Dooley, who is tasked to steer the squad in its biggest tournament yet in May.
“I’d rather lose the next four games and win the Challenge Cup than winning the next four games and losing the Challenge Cup,” the no-nonsense coach said.
“So I hope I can see the players play as a unit. If everybody works together, then the team will be successful.”
SOCCEROO atoned for squandering an early lead with a more determined performance in the second half to salvage a 2-2 draw against Pachanga on Thursday night in the United Football League at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
The newly promoted side turned to the individual brilliance of Lee Jeong Woo, who scored both goals to prevent his squad from coming up empty handed.
“We’re happy about the result, but we could’ve won that game,” Socceroo coach Kleng Cacacho said, ruing one bungled chance from Paulus Reyes, whose attempt to a goalkeeper-less net missed its mark.
The 2013 Division 2 champion thus went home with a point for a total of six to remain in eighth spot.
Despite the stalemate, Pachanga moved one spot up to fifth with 10 points, ahead of Philippine Army on goal difference.
Still, the result disappointed Pachanga coach Noel Marcaida, who missed the services of leading scorer Nate Burkey (national team) and skipper Reza Amirkhizan (suspension).
After Lee opened the scoring 15 minutes into the game by pouncing on a miscommunication from the opponent’s defense, Ariel Zerrudo equalized for Pachanga in the 25th minute.
Jinggoy Valmayor, the University of the Philippines star fresh from his UAAP stint where he led the league in scoring, wasted no time in making his presence felt, firing the goal that gave Pachanga the lead seven minutes later.
Then Lee cashed in on a Socceroo interception to score the go-ahead goal on the counterattack from the middle in the 69th.
“Hindi ganun ka-pinaghirapan yung mga tira nila, so swerte na rin kami nung first half,” Pachanga coach Noel Marcaida said.
Valmayor, the 23-under national team standout who made his debut along with Maroons teammate Daniel Gadia, had a few more makeable chances which he failed to convert.
“Kailangan niya i-improve ang patience niya at composure pag nandyan na sa loob ng box,” Marcaida said of Valmayor. “Kailangan niya pa maging mature sa game.”
THE Philippine Football Federation (PFF) made some last-minute changes to the roster of the men’s national team for two upcoming international friendlies against Malaysia and Azerbaijan.
Two goalkeepers were subtracted as Neil Etheridge suffered an injury in England, while Ed Sacapaño failed to get a clearance from Philippine Army, which required a two-week notice for call-ups before allowing its player to suit up for the national team.
Aside from Etheridge, Paul Mulders was also scratched from the lineup due to injury.
With their absence, Azkals coach Thomas Dooley inserted Green Archers United’s Patrick Deyto, a 23-under standout who will play in both matches.
“Everybody has to be ready. If somebody can’t go, we have to have the next in line,” Dooley said a day before the Azkals' departure for Malaysia on Thursday.
Simone Rota of Stallion FC has also been added to both squads after the Filipino-Italian defender secured his passport on Wednesday.
The Filipino booters face Malaysia on Saturday before taking on Azerbaijan four days later.
PACHANGA-PLDT Home Fibr hopes sacrificing for the country won’t be too costly for the club as it tangles with Socceroo on Thursday night when the United Football League (UFL) resumes at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
After releasing Nate Burkey to national team duty, the former Division 2 champion seeks to conjure enough offensive quality in the absence of its top scorer opposite a newly-promoted side during the lone game set at 7:30 p.m.
Burkey will suit up for the Azkals in their friendly against Malaysia on Saturday.
Pachanga, though, will get a huge boost from University of the Philippines standouts Jinggoy Valmayor and Daniel Gadia, who are expected to join the lineup after their stint in the UAAP, where they helped the Maroons to a runner-up finish.
“I’m really looking forward sa mga players na papasok,” Pachanga coach Noel Marcaida said.
Coming off a 1-0 win over Green Archers United last week where Burkey scored the winner, Pachanga is up against a Socceroo side that’s trying to make its mark in its maiden top-flight campaign.
Pachanga, currently in sixth spot, was in Socceroo’s shoes last season when it gained respect after finishing fifth among 10 clubs.
Socceroo, loaded with Koreans, is running second to last in the nine-team standings with five points.
Philippine internationals Neil Etheridge and Paul Mulders are doubtful to join the squad in the upcoming friendly against Azerbaijan in Dubai after the pair suffered an injury. Etheridge returned to Crewe Alexandra, on loan from Fulham FC, last night and featured in their 0-1 loss against Stevenage. The goalkeeper will be with the Football League One side until April 13, 2014. Mulders recently joined SC Cambuur in the Dutch Eredivisie and will be with the club until the end of the season. Both players were last called up to the national team in the 2013 Philippine Football Peace Cup. azkalsfootballteam.com
EXPECT full-strength squads from Global FC and Kaya FC when they collide in a marquee matchup on a rare Wednesday playdate of the United Football League at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
Originally scheduled on Thursday, the untelevised 8 p.m. match was moved a day earlier so the national team members who were called up for the international friendlies next month can play for their respective mother clubs.
That means Global’s Mark Hartmann, Misagh Bahadoran, Jeffrey Christiaens, Jason de Jong, Marwin Angles, and Amani Aguinaldo, as well as OJ Porteria, Anton del Rosario, Chris Greatwich, Andrew Liauw, Nick, O’Donnell, and Kenshiro Daniels of Kaya will be available before they leave for Malaysia on Thursday.
“I think it would’ve been a shadow of a game when you’ve got two teams going for the championship. In a game like that, you want the best players to take part,” Global coach Leigh Manson said.
The Scottish mentor feels Kaya — and not league-leading Loyola Meralco, which outclassed Global, 4-0, in their first meeting — is Global’s “toughest opponents, having held the Sparks to a goalless draw last week.
“Currently, they are possibly our toughest opponents. No disrespect to Loyola. Simply because the last time we played them, even with ten men, they worked, and worked, and worked,” Manson said, referring to their hard-earned 2-1 in the first round.
Global, though, is oozing with confidence following a 4-0 rout of Green Archers United last Saturday.
“If we play like we did second half (vs Archers) where we kept our discipline and played easy passes, then we’re good enough to beat anybody,” Manson said.
MANILA, Philippines - No Phil Younghusband, no problem.
Even with the Younghusband brothers still recuperating from their respective injuries, the Loyola Meralco Sparks tightened its grip of the top spot as they clobbered Philippine Army - GTI FC, 3-1, while Stallion Gilligan's FC also went away with a 4-1 victory over Green
Archers United in the 2014 United Football League, Tuesday, February 25, at the Emperador Stadium in Taguig City.
Simon Greatwich and Joo Young Lee continue to step up for the depleted Loyola side as they each scored a goal in the first half while late-game substitute James Younghusband displayed composure in the penalty spot to propel their squad four points clear of second place Global FC.
Winning only once in their last three outings while drawing the other two, the Sparks are under a tight schedule at the start of the second round, playing their third match this week but that did not stop coach Vince Santos' side as they cruised to an easy 3-1 beating of the tentative Armymen.
Philippine Army held Loyola for most of the first half as the Sparks kept missing their marks in the offensive but Greatwich was able to pierce through the defense in the 37th to bring his team up, 1-nil.
Lee then doubled Loyola's lead just five minutes later as perfectly connected with Matt Hartmann in the 42nd minute for 2-0.
Making matters worse for the hapless Army crew, Ronel Gener picked up his second yellow 69 minutes into the match resulting in a penalty kick for Loyola with James Younghusband drilling in the rebound from his own miss.
Gener's brother, Roel pulled one back for Army in the dying moments of the match with an 89th minute consolation goal.
The win is Loyola's eighth this season against two draws and no losses as they stay as league leaders with 26 points to show.
Army, meanwhile, plummets to 3-1-5 but remains fifth in the table with 10 points.
Stallion 4, GAU 1
Reigning titlists Stallion Gilligan's FC continues their conquest to defend their crown as they posted a come-from-behind 4-1 win over Green Archers United in the night's main show.
Coach Ernie Nierras' boys had to overcome a one-goal deficit as Robert Lopez Mendy brought Green Archers on top early in the game, scoring a fourth minute strike for 1-nil.
Down in the early goings, Stallion kept its cool and got rewarded as they scored two quick goals against Patrcik Deyto, with Filipino-Italian Simone Rota tying the game in the 21st with a header from Hamed Hajimehdi's cross and Ruben Doctora nailing the go-ahead barely two minutes later.
Ronnie Aguisanda was left red-faced near the hour mark as he suffered the ignominy of scoring an own goal that put Stallion up 3-1 56 minutes into the match.
Nathan Alquiros then wrapped up the night in the 85th to complete Stallion's three-goal triumph against the Chieffy Caligdong-less Green Archers side.
Stallion keeps pace with the league-leaders as they improved their record to 4-2-3 to remain fourth with 14 points while GAU absorbs its fifth loss this year winning just one outing and drawing the other four for seven points and seventh place in the table. -
A MIX of returnees, rookies, and old reliables see action for the Philippine men’s football team for upcoming international friendlies next month.
The Philippine Football Federation announced the lineups for the match against Malaysia on March 1 and Azerbaijan four days later — with the latter against the European side arguably more formidable with the overseas-based standouts in tow.
Anton del Rosario, Nate Burkey, Simon Greatwich, and Ruben Doctora Jr. make their anticipated returns in the national side, which will be led by Phil Younghusband and several other familiar faces.
Martin Steuble, a 25-year-old Filipino-Swiss prospect who has finally obtained his Philippine passport, makes his debut for the national team, which also welcomes newcomers Kenshiro Daniels and Andrew Liauw.
Doctora, Greatwich, and Liauw were not included in the initial training team lineup but impressed new Azkals coach Thomas Dooley.
Europe-based Stephan Schrock, Neil Etheridge, Roland Muller, Jerry Lucena, and Paul Mulders as well as Thai Premier League campaigner Javier Patiño bolster the squad to the Azerbaijan match.
Azkals skipper Chieffy Caligdong will miss the matches after fracturing his foot in a United Football League game earlier this month.
MANILA, Philippines — Newly-minted Philippines coach Thomas Dooley finally gets to link up with his big guns in Dubai next week when the likes of Stephan Schrock and Jerry Lucena return to action for the Azkals who face Azerbaijan in the Emirate on March 5.
Dooley, the former US World Cup skipper, who took the reins early this month, has actually called up 28 players for the first two matches of his tenure with United Football League standouts making up most of the lineup for the duel against Malaysia on Saturday.
The Europe-based Azkals crew will be available for the Azerbaijan clash which falls on a Fifa international date.
The two matches are part of the Azkals’ buildup for the AFC Challenge Cup in the Maldives in May.
The Filipinos have been grouped with South Asian champion Afghanistan, Laos and 2012 finalist Turkmenistan in Group B.
“It’s a tough group so we have to prepare the best way possible,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami.
Apart from mainstays Phil and James Younghusband, Patrick Reichelt, Jason de Jong, Jeffrey Christiaens and Misagh Bahadoran, Dooley has given former national players Anton del Rosario, Simon Greatwich, Ruben Doctora and Nate Burkey another opportunity to prove their worth.
Swiss League veteran Martin Steuble has been called up for the first time along with Fil-Dutch defender Andrew Liauw, former Ateneo keeper Nick O’Donnell and 19-year-old striker Kenshiro Daniels.
The lineup for Azerbaijan released by the Philippine Football Federation yesterday will also feature Thai Premier League star Javier Patino, Paul Mulders, Neil Etheridge, Roland Muller, Rob Gier and Juani Guirado.
The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) today issued the official call-up for players of the Men’s National Team who will represent the country in the international friendly between the Philippines and Malaysia on March 1, 2014 at the Selayang Municipal Council Stadium in the northern outskirts of Kuala Lumpur metropolis.
The Azkals are also scheduled to play against Azerbaijan on March 5, 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Head Coach Thomas Dooley submitted the squad list for the Malaysia vs Philippines friendly as follows:
Angeles, Marwin Janver
Daniels, Kenshiro Michael
De Jong, Jason Nicolas Maria
Del Rosario, Anton Edward
Gier, Robert James
Greatwich, Christopher Robert
Greatwich, Simon Clive
Guirado, Juan Luis
Hartmann, Mark Andrew
O’Donnell, Nicholas Michael
Porteria, Jose Elmer
Steuble, Martin Markus
Younghusband, James Joseph
Younghusband, Philip James
and the squad list for Azerbaijan vs the Philippines as follows:
Daniels, Kenshiro Michael
De Jong, Jason Nicolas Maria
Del Rosario, Anton Edward
Etheridge, Neil Edward
Gier, Robert James
Greatwich, Christopher Robert
Guirado, Juan Luis
Hartmann, Mark Andrew
Lucena, Jerry Ruben
Muller, Roland Richard
Porteria, Jose Elmer
Younghusband, James Joseph
Younghusband, Philip James
Team Manager Dan Palami will be head of delegation in both international friendly “A” matches.
A SHORTHANDED Loyola Meralco side continues to flaunt its depth as it takes on Philippine Army on Tuesday in the United Football League at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
Still without several key players due to injuries, oddly varying from quadriceps and hamstring strains to measles and stomach flu, the Sparks seek to strengthen their grip of the top spot when they face the Korean-loaded Troopers at 5:15 p.m.
It will be the second game in four days for the Sparks, who shut out Socceroo, 3-0, last Saturday.
“We have to rotate our players. As many as I can use from the bench, I will,” said Sparks coach Vince Santos, whose team is just a point ahead of its closest pursuer in Global FC.
The absence of James Younghusband, Joaco Cañas, and Bo Bae Park has given extended minutes to some players including Freddy Gonzalez, who barely missed a hat-trick against Socceroo.
The in-form Gonzalez and the Sparks, though, welcome back Phil Younghusband to the fold after the star striker has served out his suspension in the weekend matchup.
The Sparks trounced the Troopers, 5-1, in the first round, but will be facing a fifth-running military side that has regained its chemistry following a 2-0 win over Pasargad last Thursday.
Defending champion Stallion FC tries to salvage whatever is left of its title-retention hopes as it battles Green Archers United in the nightcap at 7:30 p.m.
The fourth-running Stallions remain in the title hunt, but any loss or draw could further hurt their chances of retaining the title, and the seventh-running Archers are definitely another challenge.
FORMER Philippine Azkals coach Michael Weiss is obviously disappointed over his being replaced after having brought the national team from a FIFA ranking of No.160, when he took over to 127, when he was dumped.
“Of course, I am disappointed to be taken out of the opportunity for which I have worked very hard together with the staff and the players for three years. To be taken away, this dream to go to the Asian Cup for the Philippines and the Filipino people is a sad thing,” Weiss told the Manila Standard. “It happens in football where people have the right to make decisions like that.”
The German coach also lamented the fact that he “didn’t get the support we needed to make the team stronger and to prepare accordingly for the Challenge Cup, which was my ultimate target.”
Weiss was denied the opportunity when the Philippine Football Federation and Azkals manager Dan Palami replaced him with American Thomas Dooley, who played for the United States in two World Cups, just months before the biggest challenge faced by the Azkals.
Despite the hurt caused by his ouster, Weiss said he wanted to “thank everyone, who supported me the last three years fantastically. Foremost were the players who have a fantastic character, the coaching staff and also the management even though I must say that 2013 was not so good anymore.”
He claimed that during the past year, he didn’t have the support needed to make the team stronger and prepare accordingly for the Challenge Cup.
“The numbers don’t lie. I don’t want to place it only on my shoulders. It’s the team and I am part of the team. I am very happy being part of this experience,” said Weiss.
He said the PFF and manager Palami have their reasons for his replacement. “We have to accept this and move one.”
At present, there are some unsettled financial issues which include incentives for past achievements, but Weiss isn’t keen on getting into the details which, he believes, “is not something for the public.”
MANILA, Philippines – Far Eastern University (FEU) completed a football double in UAAP Season 76 on Sunday, winning the men’s crown, 1-0, at the expense of University of the Philippines (UP), as well as the women’s title against University of Santo Tomas (UST), 2-1, at the FEU-Diliman pitch in Quezon City.
It was FEU’s ninth championship in both divisions, which it attained by sweeping the race-to-two duels. The Morayta-based institution could have made it a triple celebration had its juniors’ squad defeated Ateneo on Saturday.
FEU's last men’s title came in Season 72, while it repeated as champs in the women’s side
The Tamaraws struggled early on but were rewarded with what turned out to be the only goal they needed when Jess Mellizza, the league’s top scorer, drilled in a spectacular header above Fighting Maroons goalkeeper Ace Villanueva in the 72nd minute.
"He [Melliza] had good ability today," said FEU's Korean coach Kim Chul Su. “And the team gave its 1,000 percent effort.”
In the women’s battle, Sharmine Sioatong opened scoring in the 19th minute with Alesa Dolino making it 2-0 for FEU in the 57th minute. Marice Magdolot struck in the 87th minute but time ran out on the Tigresses.
"Sobrang saya. Nawala na ang lahat ng pagod at lahat ng sacrifices, napunan na," said coach Let Dimzon as she steered the Lady Tamaraws to the No. 1 spot in terms of titles won in the UAAP.
Paolo Bugas, FEU's lethal weapon in finishing first in the eliminations, was named the men’s Most Vauable Player, while teammate Arnel Amita was declared Best Midfielder. Villanueva was named Best Goalkeeper and fellow Green Booter Patchy Santos the Rookie of the Year.
Graduating Lady Tamaraw Mae Sollano was named the women's MVP and her teammate Barbie Sobredo the Best Scorer and Best Midfielder.
UST keeper Rara Luna took the women’s Best Goalkeeper plum and teammate Jena Abuan clinched the Best Defender honors.
Juriel Burda - 26'
Mahamadou Sissako - 44'
Arvin Gaspe - 84' Union Int Manila 7-0 Dolphins United Goal Scorers:
Mahdavi-88' Air Force Fc vs Laos Fc FT: Phil Air Force FC 0-2 Laos FC
Abou Toure - 72' (PK)
Patrick Franksson - 80' FT: Nomads FC 6-0 Cimarron FC
J. Lord - 5', 22'
B. Sekum - 10'
L. Keens - 52'
L. Toullec - 61'
A. Clottey - 69'
MANILA, Philippines — There could be a slew of new faces seeing action for the Philippines when it plays a couple of friendlies early next month as part of its buildup for the AFC Challenge Cup.
Coach Thomas Dooley, who took over early this month, is keen to test some of the local-based players for the match against Malaysia on March 1 in Kuala Lumpur, with most Europe-based players unavailable for the game and several key players injured.
Among the players expected to see action against Malaysia is Martin Steuble, the Fil-Swiss midfielder, who traces his roots in Bacolod.
Steuble who secured his Philippine passport recently, plays in the Swiss league.
“I want to give players experience and show me what they have to offer for the team,” Dooley told the Inquirer.
Dooley has tested several new players and returnees, including Kaya’s Anton Del Rosario and former Loyola striker Chad Gould as well as teenager Kenshiro Daniel.
They join the initial pool bannered by veterans Chris Greatwich, Ed Sacapano, Patrick Reichelt and Jeffrey Christiaens.
Azkals manager Dan Palami said that Phil and James Younghusband could be rested for the match against Malaysia to allow them to recover from injuries, while Chieffy Caligdong has already been ruled out of the clash because of a foot injury.
“Coach Dooley may try out some new players. He may experiment but this is just one of the steps we need to take in our mission to win the Challenge Cup,” Palami said.
UFL Div 2 FT- Agila FC 1-4 Ceres-La Salle FC
Kim Jin Ho 36'(Pk)/ 77'
Samson Olaniyi 48'
Son Yong Chan 87'
Olayemi Bakare 63'(Pk)-Agila Div 1 Loyola Meralco Sparks vs Team Socceroo FT- Team Socceroo FC 0-3 Loyola Meralco Sparks FC
Lee Joo Young 44'
Alfredo Gonzalez 55' 84' Green Archers United vs Global Fc FT- Green Archers United Globe FC 0-4 Global FC.
Misagh Bahadoran 30'
Mark Hartmann 47'
Milad Behgandom 90'
Jason De Jong 90+2'
With the first two national team training sessions already finished, Coach Thomas Dooley admitted that there are still some aspects he would like to change especially for his players.
"There should be something to be changed so that the players are more comfortable and can concentrate on the training 100% and not on anything else," said Dooley. "It's a little more work and a little more difficult, but in the end, the players can do a better job."
Dooley also added that he enjoys watching the games, as it helps him to focus on some players rather than seeing a number of players in training.
"It helps a lot watching the games (in the UFL) because now I focus on two-three players on the field," said Dooley. "It's a little bit easier for me to evaluate somebody."
The American coach also noted he will reduce the training pool heading to the international friendly against Malaysia and Azerbaijan, but also praised the players who attended the training sessions.
"It was great to see them in training, but now slowly but surely, we'll cut it (heading to the friendlies)," noted Dooley. "We will talk that with the players on what we need to do for the match."
THE two United Football League pacesetters that ended the first round differently hope for the same positive start to the second round of hostilities against separate upset-conscious foes on Saturday at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
League-leading Loyola Meralco and second-running Global FC square off against opponents that gave them a hard time in the first round in Socceroo and Green Archers United, respectively.
After a sizzling start to their campaign that saw them win their first five matches, the Sparks slowed down in their last three games, where they settled for two draws and one come-from-behind win.
One of those draws was a 3-3 stalemate against Socceroo, which the Sparks meet anew at 6:15 p.m.
The stalemate against the Sparks was one of few bright spots in the first round for Socceroo, the newly promoted side that is second to last in the nine-team standings with five points.
“We started off strong, but you can’t help but have some dips and we’ve had ours,” Sparks coach Vince Santos said. “In spite of us having our dips, we’re still on top, we’re still undefeated. There are positives to take out of this.”
“But we’re always looking to improve,” added the former national booter of his injury-riddled squad led by Phil Younghusband.
Global, on the other hand, takes the field in the nightcap at 8:30 p.m. against an seventh-running Archers side that also held the 2012 champion a 0-0 draw in the first round.
But unlike Loyola, Global finished the first round resoundingly with a 5-1 rout of defending champion Stallion.
What’s scarier is that Global coach Leigh Manson feels that his club, only a point behind the Sparks with 19, is performing only “around seventy percent” with a slew of injured standouts yet to see action, including versatile Carli de Murga, whom the Scottish mentor believes is “possibly our most naturally talented center midfielder.”
THE Philippine men’s football team appears to be the busiest among its groupmates in the run-up toward the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in May.
But that doesn’t mean Turkmenistan, Laos, and Afghanistan are not preparing rigorously for the competition featuring emerging Asian footballing nations, which stakes a lone ticket to the prestigious AFC Asian Cup next year.
While the Azkals have two friendlies and a bunch of international training camps ahead, a check of Fifa’s website revealed that Turkmenistan and Laos have yet to schedule their own, while Afghanistan has set only one match before the Challenge Cup.
But Azkals manager Dan Palami believes the Filipino booters are not the only ones giving importance to the Challenge Cup.
“I don’t think so. Now that the draw is done, teams will definitely start preparing,” he said on Thursday night after his club, Global FC, waltzed past defending champion Stallion, 5-1, in the United Football League at the Emperador Stadium.
Palami is bracing for tough opposition is in Group B as Turmenistan is a two-time Challenge Cup runner-up, Laos has mastered the Philippines in eight matches (seven wins and one draw), and Afghanistan is the reigning South Asian Football Champion.
“It’s a tough group to be in. But if we want to be champions, we have to beat everybody anyway,” the man behind the renaissance of Philippine football said.
Only the top two teams from each group — Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Palestine, and host Maldives comprise Group A—will advance to the semifinals.
“The team and coaching staff know how huge the task at hand is,” Palami said.