Azkals focused on game vs Sri Lanka, not FIFA ranking

By Miakka Lim, Adrian Flores, JVP, KY

Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta said the men’s national football team, more popularly known as the Azkals, is focused on having a strong showing in their World Cup qualifying round match against Sri Lanka and not on the country’s FIFA world ranking.

Araneta said the FIFA ranking is the least of their problems.

“They (Azkals) are more focused on building a strong team and in their upcoming match against Sri Lanka,” said Araneta.
The Philippines dropped four places in the latest FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association or International Federation of Association Football) world rankings, sliding down from 151st spot to 155.

Araneta said the country’s 2-1 loss to Mongolia in the second leg of their playoff match in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup and the scoreless draw against Palestine in the group stages could be the reason behind the Philippines’ slide to the 155th ranking.

Both Mongolia (179) and Palestine (170) are teams ranked lower than the Philippines. The country jumped to 151st spot last December after beating Vietnam (134) in a Group B match in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.

Araneta said the Azkals won’t take Sri Lanka lightly, even if it seems to be a weaker team, having failed to win a single match in Group D of the AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal. The Philippines will visit Sri Lanka on June 29 for the first leg of their two-game series in Colombo.

The PFF head said that the relative differences in the FIFA world rankings do not guarantee a win, as proven by what happened in the Suzuki Cup when the country defeated a Vietnam side that was so much ranked higher than the Philippines.

SMB willing to help renovate RMSC

Araneta said they are still waiting for the announcement of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) on whether the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC) is fit to host the Azkals’ home game against Sri Lanka on July 3.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will be making an inspection before coming up with a report regarding the structural integrity of the grandstand bleachers of the RMSC. The PSC will be making the announcement on the DPWH report on Thursday.

Araneta said San Miguel Corp. has also promised to help refurbish RMSC’s seats and score board.

“We prefer to hold the game at RMSC since it has more seating capacity. Logistics wise, it makes for a much cheaper and easier access for the media, as well as financially lighter. Plus it is the chance of the people from Luzon to watch the game here,” Araneta added.

3 players out on Sri Lanka game

Filipino-Canadian siblings Jonathan and Julian de Guzman and Filipino-Spanish Juan Luis Guirado, potential additions to the Azkals, may not be around to join the team against Sri Lanka in the Asian qualifying round for the 2014 World Cup.

Jonathan de Guzman, who had stints for The Netherlands’ U21 and U23 teams, is reportedly being eyed by the Dutch seniors squad, while Julian de Guzman, who plays for Toronto FC in Major League Soccer, had already played for Canada’s men’s team.

Guirado, the younger brother of Azkals member Angel Guirado, still has a contract with Spanish Division III Club Lermeno of Burgos covering the duration of the June 29 and July 3 matches pitting the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Co-captains Anton del Rosario and Aly Borromeo are still scouting for new players in the United States. Source