Azkals brace for tough prelims assignments, not counting on luck in Suzuki Cup draw 
Thomas Dooley and the Azkals hopes to do better after the Philippines made two straight semifinal appearances in the AFC Cup. Jaime Campos

THE Philippine men’s football team focuses on what it can control as the Asean Football Federation drumbeats this year’s Suzuki Cup with the draw on Tuesday night in Myanmar.

The Azkals, who will co-host the group stage for the first time, are entering the biggest football tournament in the region as contenders anew after reaching the semifinals the last three editions.

But the Filipino booters could be grouped with Thailand and Singapore, the past two champions of the biennial event, when they host the tournament at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan in November.

“We can’t afford to rely on the draw,” Azkals manager Dan Palami said. “Whatever happens, we need to have the best preparation if we want to make the finals for the first time.”

The Philippines is in Pot 1 with co-host Myanmar, while the Thais, who beat the Azkals in the semifinals en route to their 2014 conquest, are in Pot 2 with 2014 losing finalist Malaysia.

Pot 3 has Singapore and Vietnam, while Pot 4 teams Indonesia and the winner of the qualifying tournament in Cambodia in October complete the list.

Squads in the same pot are bracketed with teams in other pots during the draw, which Azkals coach Thomas Dooley with will attend in Yangon along with top defender Amani Aguinaldo.

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