THE Philippine men’s football team has found itself in the same group as the teams it had hoped to avoid, but the Azkals remain undaunted ahead of their Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup campaign this November.
Team manager Dan Palami is trying to look at the bright side after the 152nd-ranked Azkals were bracketed in Group A with Vietnam (120) and Thailand (135) -- the top two teams in the region -- as well as the winner of the qualifying stage.
“What is important is the top teams in Southeast Asia based on rankings will be in one group,” he said after the draw from Bangkok that was shown live at the Azkals Sports Bar at The Fort, Taguig.
Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, squads that the Azkals had hoped to be grouped with, comprise Group B, along with the runner-up of the qualifying stage.
The qualifying stage of the premier tournament among Southeast Asian nations is set from October 5 to 13 and will feature Mynamar, Laos, Cambodia, Timor Leste and Brunei, while the main stage begins November 24 and ends on December 1.
Palami said the Azkals would still be in for a tough time even if they were grouped with Malaysia and Indonesia, the two finalists of this event two years ago.
“I would’ve wanted to be in a different group but there is no weak group here,” Palami said. “If we want to win, we have to beat the strongest teams. That’s the only way to go about it.”
The tournament will use the same format, with teams in one group taking part in a single-round robin and the top teams advancing to the semifinals.
In 2010, the Filipino booters barely made the group stage after finishing second to Laos in the qualification stage. Against Vietnam, Singapore, and Myanmar, the Azkals finished second with 1-2-0 win-draw-loss card.
The Azkals will be disappointed if they fail to to duplicate their first-ever semifinal finish two years ago.
“This is our World Cup,” Palami said.