THE Philippine men’s football team kicks off a crucial year with an international friendly against Malaysia on March 1 at the Selayang Municipal Council Stadium in Kula Lumpur.
The Azkals will use the Fifa-sanctioned friendly, confirmed by the Philippine Football Federation, to jumpstart preparations for the Asia Football Confederation Challenge Cup in May when they will vie for top honors and a ticket to the more prestigious AFC Asian Cup next year.
Coming off an impressive year where they topped Group E of the Challenge Cup qualifiers and defended the Philippine Peace Cup title, the Filipino booters are now ranked 127th out of 209 footballing nations in the world.
It will be the 16th meeting between the Philippines and Malaysia since 1962, with the Azkals gunning for only their second win after losing 11 times and settling for a draw thrice.
Now in search of a new coach following the dismissal of German mentor Michael Weiss, the Azkals actually start their 2014 campaign with a charity match against an Asean All-Star selection in February.
The Filipinos will also participate in a tournament in Pakistan, then have friendlies in Dubai and Qatar, embark on a training camp possibly in Europe before flying to Maldives for the Challenge Cup.
The Azkals cap off the year with a stint in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup, the tournament that started the Azkals phenomenon in 2010.