MANILA, Philippines — Boosting its buildup for the AFC Challenge Cup, the Philippines will play three friendly matches next month, including a home game against Malaysia in Cebu City on April 27.
The Azkals are already scheduled to meet Nepal on April 11 and Al Ahli three days later in Doha as highlight of its weeklong camp.
The Malaysia friendly was added to the schedule Friday and with rehabilitation work of the Rizal Memorial Stadium pitch still not finished, the Philippine Football Federation decided to stage the match in Cebu.
Azkals manager Dan Palami said the Malaysia friendly augurs well for the team’s preparations with players still trying to adapt to the system of play implemented by coach Thomas Dooley.
The German-American coach has been conducting twice-a-week practice sessions in Manila, but has struggled to get all of his players together due to club commitments.
“We just need as many matches as possible,” said Palami.
“There’s really no substitute for playing in a real match situation.”
The Philippines and Malaysia played to a scoreless draw last March 1 at Selayang Stadium in a match marred by a delay due to flares and fireworks directed at the pitch by fans protesting the management of the Football Association of Malaysia.
“We’re looking forward to the match [against Malaysia],” said Palami. “It will be another good test for the team.”
The final stretch of the Azkals’ buildup will be in Bahrain starting May 6 with a couple of matches also lined up, before they fly to Maldives for the Challenge Cup set May 19 to 30.