Azkals step up buildup for AFF, Asian Cups

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Azkals step up on their buildup for the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup and 2019 Asian Cup with more overseas sorties next month, seeing action in the Bangabandhu Gold Cup in Bangladesh and playing Oman during separate training camp in Qatar.


Azkals manager Dan Palami said coach Scott Cooper will give players who weren’t part of the pool that earlier trained in Bahrain and played against the Bahrainis last month a chance to prove themselves in the Oct. 1-12 Bangabandhu Cup against host Bangladesh, Asian Cup campaigner Palestine, Laos, Nepal and Tajikistan.


The rest of the mainstays will fly to Qatar for training from Oct. 8-15 with a friendly against the Omanis on Oct. 13.


“The players who will go to Bangladesh will be the ones whom the coach would want to see play, the new players and the comebacking players who weren’t called up in the first camp (Bahrain). We proceed to Qatar on the 8th to hold a camp there and play against Oman on the 13th. That’s the next phase of our preparations,” Palami said.


Newly installed Cooper previously held his first camp with the Azkals in Bahrain, where the team battled the Bahrainis to a 1-1 draw.


“It was a very successful, productive training camp in Bahrain. Considering we only had two days training session before the game, we did well and drew with Bahrain, and there’s good reason to be optimistic. Right now, since bago ang coach, we’re still in the process of selecting the final lineup but it looks good because there’ s a bigger pool of talents we’ll be choosing from,” said Palami.


Phl handed the coaching reins to Cooper, originally the team’s adviser, following the withdrawal of Terry Butcher.


“We only had two training sessions before the (Bahrain) game maganda naman ang result. Players understand what’s supposed to be done,” said Palami, whose wards are out for redemption in the Nov. 8-Dec. 15 Suzuki Cup after missing the semis in 2016 and look forward to making a memorable debut in the Asia’s showpiece tournament slated Jan. 5-Feb. 1, 2019 in the UAE.