The Philippines’ preparation for the AFF Suzuki Cup has hit a snag following the decision of Malaysia to cancel its match with the Azkals that had been scheduled for this Saturday at Shah Alam Stadium.
Although the Azkals were already familiar with Malaysia’s style, having played against them early this year, they still would have provided coach Thomas Dooley’s side a stern test. And with less than two months to go before the Suzuki Cup, the pressure is mounting for the Azkals to step up their preparations.
Azkals manager Dan Palami said they are eyeing a friendly with Papua New Guinea in Manila on Saturday after the team plays Singapore in a friendly.
Papua New Guinea, which belongs to the Oceania Football Confederation and is coached by Wynton Rufer of New Zealand, is ranked 199th by Fifa this month although it managed to hold its own against reigning Suzuki Cup champion Singapore in an away 1-2 defeat in a friendly last month.
“We’re really searching for alternatives since we want to maximize the international break,” said Palami. “We can’t afford not to prepare well for the Suzuki Cup where, unlike in the past, we are now a contender.”
The Azkals have already arranged another friendly with Nepal on Oct. 31 in Doha, Qatar.
Dooley wants six matches before the Azkals plunge into action in Group A in Hanoi from Nov. 20 to 28.
The Philippines will play the No. 2 team of the qualifying tournament on Nov. 20 before tangling with Indonesia three days later.