A REINFORCED Philippine men’s football team tries to continue building cohesion as it caps its first overseas trip of the year with an international friendly against Azerbaijan on Wednesday night at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.
Coming off a goalless draw against Malaysia in the opponent’s turf, the Azkals continue their buildup for the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup against a quality European side in neutral territory.
The Thomas Dooley-mentored Filipino booters welcome back European-based stars Stephan Schrock, Jerry Lucena, and Filipino-Spanish Thai Premier League standout Javier Patiño to the fold.
Another Euro-based Azkal, Roland Muller, was a late scratch due to an illness.
To accommodate them, Marwin Angeles, Nate Burkey, Simon Greatwich, Andrew Liauw, and Nick O’Donnell, had to be unloaded from the roster after they suited up against Malaysia.
Still, the Azerbaijanis should be a tough nut to crack, with their world ranking of No. 93 alone as the basis.
The 127th-ranked Azkals hope to pull off an upset against their European counterparts, the highest-ranked squad the country will face since taking on 58th-ranked United Arab Emirates last November when the Filipino booters suffered a 0-4 shutout.
It will also be the first time the Philippines will face a European squad in 17 years or since 1997 when it lost to Estonia in Manila, 0-1.
Overseas Filipino Workers in Dubai can watch the match for free, according to a post in the Azkals website on Tuesday.