AFC Asian Cup, the next big thing for the Philippine Azkals

By Olmin Leyba

Once the Philippine Azkals get back into training later this month, the team will have its hands full trying to capture a slot in the AFC Asian Cup, the next big thing after the Fifa World Cup, while attempting to climb in the world rankings.

“Bringing home the AFC Challenge Cup next year, that’s our immediate goal because that will ensure our participation in the Agresian Cup in 2015,” Azkals manager Dan Palami said.

The Azkals have qualified to the main draw of the AFC Challenge Cup on March 3-18 in Nepal along with Palestine, India, Turkmenistan, Maldives, Tajikistan, North Korea, and the hosts. Winner of the tournament will earn a ticket to the 2015 Asian Cup where 2011 champion Japan, host Australia, and Korea are seeded.

Palami said the Asian Cup is big for the Azkals, who failed in their recent effort to reach the 2014 Fifa World Cup after losing to powerhouse Kuwait in the second round, 5-1, on goal aggregate.

“It (Asian Cup) is not akin to the World Cup but the hype and excitement will be at level of World Cup also,” he said.

While preparing for the Asian Cup-qualifying Challenge Cup, the Azkals also look to improve on their current 162nd standing in the Fifa world rankings.

“Our intention right now is to play as many international friendlies as possible to improve our FIFA rankings,” Palami said.

For this, the Azkals are arranging friendly matches against India or Pakistan and around three countries in the Gulf region in between their participation in next month’s Long Teng Cup in Chinese Taipei. Published in The Philippine Star