Azkals return to Hanoi as they vie for top honors in Suzuki Cup
Chieffy Caligdong and the Azkals return to Vietnam for the AFF Suzuki Cup. Jerome Ascano

THE Philippine men’s football team returns to a memorable venue when it vies for top honors in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup in November.

The Azkals have been bracketed in Group A with Vietnam, Indonesia, and the qualifying round runner-up after the draw held on Tuesday in Hanoi, Vietnam.

And being grouped with Vietnam, one of the tournament’s two hosts, also means the Filipino booters will see action in Hanoi, the city where they scored the stunning 2-0 win over Vietnam in the group stage in 2010 in a huge upset that sparked the sport’s renaissance in the country.

The Azkals, currently Southeast Asia’s top-ranked squad at 128th, aim to surpass their semifinal finish in the last two editions this time, but face formidable foes in Vietnam (129th) and Indonesia (153rd).

The national team has beaten Vietnam twice in a row, the latest a 1-0 win thanks to Chieffy Caligdong’s late goal in the 2012 group stage.

But they have yet to defeat Indonesia, which blanked the Azkals, 2-0, on aggregate in the 2010 semifinals.

The Azkals face the qualifying round runner-up on November 22, Indonesia on 25, before taking on Vietnam three days later.

Group B is composed of Thailand, Malaysia, the competition’s other host, Singapore, and the qualifying round winner.

Qualifying round participants Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Timor Leste, and Brunei dispute the two remaining group stage slots.

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