EYES will be wide open for football fans in the wee hours of Saturday when the Philippine men’s football team intensifies its buildup for the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup, facing Nepal in a friendly at the Al Arabi Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
Kickoff is at 1:30 a.m. with the Azkals aiming for their breakthrough victory under new coach Thomas Dooley after surrendering a close 0-1 decision to Azerbaijan and settling for a goalless draw against Malaysia last month.
Despite failing to win in their last two matches against quality opposition, the Azkals have earned praise for a clearer and more attractive style of play under the former US World Cup skipper.
Now ranged against a lower-ranked squad they shut out, 4-0, at home three years ago, the Azkals hope their improved passing game would translate into goals this time.
“Now we can focus on the offense, trying to understand tactically how we can create chances and need to be all on the same page all the time,” Dooley said in a preview on the Azkals website.
A victory will be a welcome development for the Azkals, who dropped 13 spots to 143rd in the latest Fifa rankings released on Thursday.
Still, the 159th-ranked Nepalese will be a challenge for the national team, which saw three new call-ups in Charlie Pettys, Curt Dizon, and Daisuke Sato of Global FC.
The match in neutral territory is the first of two friendlies in Doha as the Azkals face Qatari club Al-Ahli three days later.