THE Philippine men’s football team steps up its buildup up for the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup as it tangles with Thailand in a friendly on Sunday at the opponent’s turf in Nakhon Ratchasima.
In a gauge of how far they’ve gone in their preparations, the Azkals take on the War Elephants at 7:30 p.m. in a non-Fifa-sanctioned match.
The 129th-ranked Filipino footballers may be 36 spots ahead of the Thais, but the hosts have had the Pinoys’ number for decades, beating them in all but two of their 16 meetings.
The Azkals, who last scored a victory against the Thais in 1972, try to snap a 13-match losing spell against their Southeast Asian neighbors.
Thailand is also preparing for the Suzuki Cup, but is not grouped with the Philippines, which is bracketed in Group A with Laos, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
Phil Younghusband and Rob Gier banner the national team once again, but Azkals coach Thomas Dooley has called up two new faces for the 24-man roster in Global FC players Satoshi Otomo and Dennis Villanueva.
Otomo, a Filipino-Japanese midfielder, is a veteran rookie at age 33, while Villanueva is a Filipino-Italian defender.
Filipino-Spanish defender Alvaro Silva, UAAP MVP Paolo Bugas, and Socceroo goalkeeper Tomas Trigo make their second appearances for the Azkals.
The full roster:
Goalkeepers: Patrick Deyto, Tomas Trigo
Defenders: Amani Aguinaldo, Jeffrey Christiaens, Kenshiro Daniels, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Simone Rota, Daisuke Sato, Alvaro Silva, Dennis Villanueva
Midfielders: Misagh Bahadoran, Paolo Bugas, Curt Dizon, Chris Greatwich, Simon Greatwich, Paul Mulders, Manny Ott, Satoshi Otomo, Martin Steuble, James Younghusband
Forwards: Mark Hartmann, Patrick Reichelt, Phil Younghusband