Thanks for the Azkals! Finally, the Philippines football team will be able to join the three major tournaments next year, including the qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil which the country is joining for the first time in more than a decade.
The campaign will start on February after Azkals clash with Mongolia in a home-and-away tie in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge qualifier.
February 9, 2011 will be the scheduled date for the home game that will be held at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod, but the Philippine Football Federation is also pushing to have the away game at Panaad because of the cold weather in Mongolia.
The goalkeepers Neil Etheridge and Jason de Jong, among the six players of the senior team in the SEA Games, which is an Under-23 event, will be eligible for the tournament.
Given little chance because of their poor results in the past, the Azkals emerged as the surprise package of the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup, reaching the semifinals where they bowed to Indonesia.
A stunning 2-0 victory over Vietnam and draws with fancied squads Singapore and Myanmar propelled the Filipinos to the semifinals for the first time in the tournament’s 14-year history.
“It was a culmination of a very nice run for us,” said team manager Dan Palami.
“We never expected to reach the semifinals and credit goes to the players for playing their hearts out. Our campaign was a reflection of the Filipino spirit of never backing down.”
Also lined up is the qualifying event for the 2014 World Cup and the Southeast Asian Games in December in Indonesia.