By: Roy Moore
The Azkals Senior and Under-22 sides will participate in a mini-tournament in Bacolod as preparation for their upcoming international friendlies and 2013 Asian Cup Qualifiers, according to the Azkals’ official website.
As a cup format the Senior Azkals side will face Ceres FC on May 26, while the U-22 Azkals will face UFL title contenders Global FC, in what are effectively semi-finals.
The winners will then advance to face each other in the final the next day, while the losers will play each other in the third-place playoff, on May 27.
The same website reports that the Azkals will be boosted by the arrival of Jason De Jong and Kaya teammates Jason Sabio and Lexton Moy in Bacolod on May 24, while Rob Gier and Fil-Germans Manny Ott and Denis Wolf will be arriving on the 25th.
The games will be held at Panaad Stadium which, going by previous games, will mean the teams will be cheered on by a large, enthusiastic crowd.
Panaad will also host the Philippines versus Guam match on Independence Day, June 12.
Under 22s preparing for Asian Cup Qualifiers
Amani Manuel Aguinaldo, Michael Jeremy Mabang and Allen Jose Serna reportedly arrived on May 23 to join the U-22 side, while Verheye Marasigan, Jacques Van Bossche and Jeffrey Christiaens will arrive in Bacolod on the 24th.
The U-22s are preparing for the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers where they have been handed a tough group comprised of Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Burma and Vietnam. The games will be held between June 23 and July 3 in Burma – where the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers were held.
Azkals versus U-22s
The U-22 Azkals also played a friendly with the Senior side on May 23rd, in San Carlos City. The Senior Azkals won 3-0 thanks to two goals by Phil Younghusband and an Anthony Tongson own goal.
With many of the same players available, fans are hoping to see progress since the 2011 SEA Games, which saw the U-23 side lose all but one game and finish bottom of the group.
The Senior Azkals, however, will be looking to cement their place in the elite of South East Asian football with victories over Malaysia and Indonesia this June, especially as the Philippines (148) rose above Malaysia (153) and Indonesia (151) to it’s highest FIFA ranking ever last month.
Club versus country
It is not yet known whether Global regulars Carli De Murga, Angel Guirado and Misagh Bahadoran will suit up for the Azkals or for Global in the upcoming mini-tournament.
These matches are exhibition games, though, and will be used to experiment with formations and personnel rather than to competitively test the players and win at all cost.
And as these games are in preparation for the international friendlies it is likely that the players will face their Global teammates in representing the country.
Bacolod versus Manila
Global themselves are still in the mix for the UFL title, being just one point behind Kaya and with a game in hand, which will be against Loyola.
Meanwhile Ceres FC are the reigning North Football League Champions, having defended their title against Dynamic FC last month. They also beat runaway UFL Division 2 leaders Pachanga FC 1-0 in a friendly at the Panaad Stadium back in January.
A strong performance in this friendly tournament, especially should they face Global in either the final or the third-place playoff, would give strength to the calls for them to field a UFL team. Should Global and Ceres face each other it may well be a good test of the quality of football in both regions.
Whatever happens in these games Philippine football wins again as the exhibition games will be sure to please the fans in Bacolod, one of the strongholds of Philippine football in recent times. (GMA News)