Azkals' next mission: World Cup Qualifiers

AFTER qualifying to the Asian Football Challenge Cup main draw, the Azkals will be in for another tough grind as they embark on a new challenge—the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.

This is the first time the Philippines will join the qualifiers since whimpering out without a win in the qualifying round for the 2002 World Cup.

The Azkals is grouped with the bottom 16 among the AFC members and will play in the home-and-away first round against a yet to be determine foe.

The bottom 16 in the AFC are Malaysia, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palestine, Timor Leste, Macau, Chinese Taipei, Myanmar and Laos. The Philippines is ranked last because it failed to join the 2006 and 2010 qualifiers.

The draw for the home and away matches in the first round, to be played on June 29 and July 3, will be on March 30.

If the Philippines wins the first round series, it will play in another home-and-away second round with the top 22 teams in Asia.

Meanwhile, team manager Dan Palami lauded the team’s effort in making history in the AFC Challenge Cup, where the Azkals made the main draw for the first time after finishing second to Palestine.

It was also the second straight tournament that the Azkals finished undefeated and qualified from the group stage. In the Suzuki Cup, they also finished second to Vietnam in the group stage with two draws and one win.

“We’ve made history by qualifying for the main tournament for the first time in Philippine history,” Palami told

The Philippines finished third in Group B with one win and two losses in the 2010 qualifiers. In the 2008 qualifiers played in Iloilo, the Azkals finished tied with seven points with Tajikistan but lost the lone qualifying spot on goal difference, 6-4.

The 2008 edition was the first time Neil Etheridge saw action for the team.

“There had been something lacking in the first few games but we picked up where we left off in the second half of the last game and played even better. We were pressuring all the time. Everyone played really well and the team gelled together,” Palami said.

The Azkals drew its first two matches against Myanmar, 1-1, and Palestine, before routing Bangladesh, 3-0. It was their best result since a 5-0 thrashing of Timor Leste in the Suzuki Cup qualifiers in November last year.

The Azkals are expected to train the whole summer for the World Cup qualifiers.

In an earlier interview with Sun.Star Cebu, Palami promised to hold a training camp in Cebu, to give Cebuano fans a chance to meet the Azkals.


sidrow_c said…
hope the draw will be favorable to the philippines, vietnam , malaysia and chinese taipei are considered seeded teams in the fisrt qualifing round.hurdling the fist round is an achievable task for the azkals. in the 2nd and succeding rounds their chance is slim but who knows bilog ang bola say an old adage.

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