By Olmin Leyba
The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) is trying to arrange a pair of Fifa friendly matches in October to test the skills of the Azkals and possibly improve their ranking among football-playing nations.
The Azkals stand at 162nd in the latest monthly world rankings released by the Fifa last Wednesday, maintaining their previous position. They failed to earn ranking points from their 0-3 and 1-2 setbacks to Kuwait in the Fifa World Cup Asian Qualifiers second round last July 23 and 28.
PFF president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta said they are inviting Oman, Qatar, and Singapore to come over for a friendly on Oct. 6 prior to their third round campaigns in nearby countries.
Oman (103rd) will play an away match against Australia on Oct. 11, the same day Qatar (88th) is set to take on home side Australia, and Singapore (129th) hosts Jordan.
Another tune-up is eyed on Oct. 6 against Bangladesh, a side that the Azkals defeated in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers but ranks higher than Phl at 139th.
The Bangladeshis moved eight notches in the latest rankings on the strength of their 2-0 win over Lebanon in the second leg of their Fifa World Cup Asian Qualifiers Round 2 tussle. Bangladesh eventually lost to the Lebanese on goal aggregate, 4-2, to bow out.
“Hopefully Bangladesh will accept our invitation since they have no more (WC) matches and anyone among Oman, Qatar and Singapore will agree to play the Azkals before their third round,” Araneta told The STAR.
“Our players based in Europe will be available during those dates (Oct. 6 and 9) so we can truly gauge the team against higher-ranked opponents,” he added.
The PFF had earlier invited Malaysia, Vietnam, Nepal and Jordan but each declined.
The Azkals will resume training on Aug. 29, then hold camp in Bacolod City from Sept. 8-15 to play against Ilonggo squads before competing in the Long Teng Cup in Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei on Sept. 28-Oct. 2.
Some of the players in the Phl U-23 pool will join the Azkals in the Chinese-Taipei meet. After that, the U-23 booters and their teammates will spend one week in Southern Japan (Oct. 21-28) as final buildup for their Southeast Asian Games sortie. Published in The Philipine Star