Thursday, 31 March 2011

Brave Reds are next for Azkals

Posted by chardyboy on Thursday, March 31, 2011 0 comments


MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ ambitious bid of advancing to the prestigious 2014 World Cup got a massive boost Wednesday when the Philippine Azkals were drawn against a lower-ranked Sri Lankan side in the first round of the qualifying tournament that starts this June.

Philippine Football Federation chief Mariano “Nonong” Araneta said the result of the draw which took place in Kuala Lumpur was “a favourable one for the Azkals” if the standings in the FIFA world rankings of both teams will be the basis. 

Nicknamed the Brave Reds, the Sri Lankan squad is ranked 173rd while the Philippines, 151st. The format for the Round 1 qualifier will be a home and away series with Sri Lanka hosting the first leg on June 29 and Philippines on July 3.

If the Azkals manage to ease past the Brave Reds, they will have a tougher time in Round 2 as they will face Kuwait, which is ranked 101st.

The Azkals, who recently secured a place in the main draw of the 2012 Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup, have never player the Brave Reds before, but Araneta remains optimistic of the team’s chances.

The Philippine squad gets the chance to learn more about the football brand of play of its South Asian opponent when Sri Lanka hosts its AFC Challenge Cup group stage qualifying matches next week.

Sri Lanka is in Group D and will play either Afghanistan or Bhutan, defending champion North Korea and Nepal at Dashrath and Halchowk Stadiums in Kathmandu beginning April 7. The Azkals and Palestine advanced to the eight-team finals after topping Group A last week.

“We might send someone to get a copy of their matches,” said Araneta of Sri Lanka which finished runner up in the 2006 edition of the Challenge Cup.

Team manager Dan Palami earlier said he would be already satisfied seeing the boys reaching the third round of the World Cup qualifier.

But with Kuwait standing in their way in the second round, the Azkals may have a hard time achieving their goal.

“So without looking past Sri Lanka, we’re also thinking ahead for the Kuwait match up,” Araneta said. 

To prepare for Sri Lanka, as well as Kuwait, Araneta said the Azkals will camp out in a Middle East country in the first week of June so the players can get acclimatized with the hot weather.

The home game against Sri Lanka could be staged at either the Rizal Memorial football stadium in Manila or the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.

The Azkals are led by the Younghusband brothers – James and Phil – and new recruits from Europe.


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