Hit with injuries and absences by key players, the Philippine Azkals hope to give their AFF Suzuki Cup buildup a positive turn when they fly to Bishkek for a clash against higher-ranked Kyrgyzstan in a friendly.
The match on Tuesday marks the start of the preparations for the prestigious biennial tournament in November and Azkals skipper Phil Younghusband sees the team getting a huge boost just by playing a foe ranked No. 105 in the world.
The Azkals, who fell to No. 134 from a high of No. 114 in the latest Fifa rankings, will be embarking on a 28-hour journey to Bishkek via Bangkok and Astana.
“Its never easy to travel that long and be 100 percent, but we have to make sure that when we get there, we have to give the best possible chance to get a result,” said Younghusband after the Azkals wrapped up their final training session at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
“We haven’t got a lot of time there. It will be a good test because its difficult opposition and if we want to be stronger for the Suzuki Cup, we have to play against strong teams.”
Azkals coach Thomas Dooley will be bringing 21 players for the trip to Bishkek with goalkeeper Neil Etheridge will link up with the squad in Kyrgyzstan capital on Sunday.
Veterans Simone Rota and Patrick Reichelt are also sidelined until the Suzuki Cup, while Stephan Schrock did not make the trip due to personal reasons.
Meanwhile, ex-national team star Chieffy Caligdong has been appointed to the Azkals coaching staff for the Suzuki Cup. Azkals manager Dan Palami said Caligdong will start working with the team in October when it plays Bahrain in another friendly match at Philippine Sports Stadium.
“As an Azkals legend, Chieffy’s presence and experience will come in handy as he tries to pass it on to our younger players come the Suzuki Cup,” said Palami.