19 May 2014

Azkals keen to show they belong among Asia's best as they begin Challenge Cup quest against Afghans

By Karlo Sacamos
THE Philippines’ ambitious quest for Asian football glory begins on Tuesday when the Azkals kick off their Asian Football Challenge Cup campaign against Afghanistan on Thursday in Addu City, Maldives.
After months of preparation and waiting, the Filipino booters finally get to test the mettle of fellow emerging footballing nations in the continent all vying for the lone ticket to the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, a prestigious tournament one rung lower than the World Cup as far as the region is concerned.
“Winning this tournament allows us to be considered as one of the top teams in Asia already and that is something we have been looking forward to,” Azkals manager Dan Palami said.
And the Azkals start their daunting journey against the reigning South Asian football champion and the top-ranked squad in the tournament at 128th.
It will be another late night for local Azkals fans as kickoff is slated at midnight (Philippine time).
Fresh from a weeklong training camp in Bahrain, the Thomas Dooley-mentored Azkals are aiming for no less than a victory, but they will have to manage with the absence of standouts Phil Younghusband and Rob Gier.
Younghusband, the country’s top scorer, and Gier, a rock on defense, are suspended for yellow-card accumulation, incurred as early as last year in March when the Azkals topped the Group E qualifiers in Manila.
Also without Filipino-Spanish striker Javier Patiño, whose Thai club Buriram United refused to release him, the Azkals will have to count on Europe-based stalwarts Stephan Schrock, Neil Etheridge, Juani Guirado, Dennis Cagara, Jerry Lucena, and Martin Steuble as well as local United Football League counterparts led by Patrick Reichelt, James Younghusband, and Anton del Rosario.
Teenagers Kenshiro Daniels and Amani Aguinaldo are also late additions to the 24-man lineup that traveled to the island country after Nate Burkey and Misagh Bahadoran went down with injuries.
Only 18 players, however, are expected to make the playing roster.



  1. Who will score the goals for the Azkals? Top striker Patino is missing (his Thai club didn't release him for the NT even our oponents' Thai players from Laos & Afghanistan were released ....but Buriram seems to be a little bit difficult in this affair), Top UFL striker Hartman is not included in the team, Phil out of form due to injury and suspended for the IMPORTANT first match (if they lose this one, the Laos match can be a do or die match again)....so i am not so confident of this AFC challenge cup. The Afghans have a strong team, we always suffered vs. Laos and the Turkmens are traditional an inconvenient team.....my forefast is:
    PHL-AFG 1:1, PHL-LAO 1:1, PHL-TURK 0:2;
    Pessimistic outlook, but maybe the tournament comes one year too early for our younger players.....but at least a good test for them.

    1. Past is past, actually Afghans are very much the same as azkals - they're still improving and not yet an asian powerhous with azkals already 2 years ahead of them. Laos with the recent loss vs Maldives (1:7) a team Azkals can beat 2:1 or 3:2, will probably end up in the bottom of the standings, and the Turkmen knows how fast azkals caught up with them - from being whipped 0:5, 1:2 in their last meetings azkals finally won the last encounter with 1:0 victory and philippines is actually one of the two most feared teams in the tournament along with turkmenistan, so set aside your pessismism and watch the game tonight. My prediction is PHI-AFG 2:1 and TKM-LAO 4:0

  2. first prediction came true, draw vs. Afghanistan and nobdy showing finishing qualities.....this Challenge Cup can be earlier be over than some expect.....