The Philippine Azkals continues their preparation for the AFF Suzuki Cup and AFC Asian Cup, in partaking in another training camp, followed by a friendly match against Oman. Both matches were held in Qatar from October 10th to 14th.
Coming from the 2018 Bangabandhu Cup in Bangladesh, which is part of their build-up for the two tournaments, the Azkals continued their build-up with another training camp and participated in a friendly match in a Middle Eastern country as the team is trying to adopt the climate of the Middle East for AFC Asian Cup, which will be held in another Middle East country – the United Arab Emirates in January 2019.
The training camps are also the way for the players to familiarize themselves to the system of new Azkals head coach Scott Cooper since familiarization and teamwork will play a crucial role in their campaign on two huge tournaments the Azkals will participate.
As the cultivation of their Qatar training camp, the Azkals face Oman in a friendly match at the Thani Bin Jassim Stadium in Doha, Qatar last October 13th. This is the first time in 17 years, the 114th -ranked Azkals will face the 85th -ranked Oman. Both team last faced during the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifiers back in May 2001, when the Azkals both lost in the home-and-away leg, 2-0 and 7-0.
In the opening minutes of the match, Oman was aggressive on attacking with Raed Saleh found the back of the net to give Oman, a 1-0 lead in the 8th minute but his teammate Khalid Al Hajiri had an own goal at the 38th minute that favors the Azkals, which level the scoreline at 1-1.
The aggressiveness in the offense of the Omani in the first half is evident as Cardiff City and main Azkals goalkeeper Neil Etheridge foiled three attempts of their opponent.
In the second half, nothing was changed on the aggressiveness of Oman as Azkals substitute goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard foiled five attempted attacks of the Omani.
One of the foiled attack of Falkesgaard in the second half was the late goal of Muhsein Alghassani during the stoppage game, which could give a victory for Oman but the Fil-Danish was able to intercept the goal, preserving 1-1 draw result.
“It’s still one of the biggest results for the Philippines in a long time,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami via Inquirer.net. “But more than that, it’s the steady improvement that the team is showing that’s building everyone’s confidence as we draw closer to the important tournaments.”
The result of the friendly between the Azkals and Oman signified the former made significant progress in the program for the last 17 years, especially both countries last faced each a long time ago and the latter is ranked higher in the latest FIFA World Rankings.
“We’re very pleased with the result,” said Azkals coach Scott Cooper via the same Inquirer.net report. “Considering that we’re still in a period of experimenting and putting in a system that requires a high level of fitness, this was a fantastic performance.”
Prior to its Qatar training camp and friendly against Oman, the Azkals held a training camp in Bahrain last September and they had a friendly against the host country which ended in a draw, 1-1.
Copa Paulino Alcantara semis match-up already set
With the last match day is crucial to determine their opponents in the semifinals, the remaining teams in the Copa Paulino Alcantara gave their best shot to get a better a match-up.
In Group A action, Davao Aguilas Bellmare FC blanked Stallion Laguna 4-0 at the Binan Football Stadium in Binan, Laguna last October 17th to officially hold the sole leadership of Group A at the end of the Group Stages.
The Aguilas relied on the goals of Phil Younghusband during the 40th and 83rd minute and Kim Sungmin in the 70th and 84th minute to finish at top of Group A with 10 points.
Stallion Laguna ended their Group Stages campaign with four points for second- place finish, followed by already-eliminated Ceres-Negros FC with three points.
Meanwhile, in Group B, Kaya Iloilo FC squeaked past JPV Marikina 1-0 at the PFF National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite on the same day.
Kaya Iloilo just needed a goal from Robert Lopez Mendy in the 5th minute as both teams failed to score as the minutes’ progress.
“It was a hard-fought battle to get the number one spot in the group, but we’re happy that the objective was met,’’ said Kaya Iloilo head coach Noel Marcaida via The Manila Times.
Kaya Iloilo finished as the “topnotcher” of Group B with 10 points while JPV Marikina followed second with six points. Global –Cebu FC is in the bottom of standings with one point.
The semifinals match-up are already set for Copa Paulino Alcantara as Kaya Iloilo FC will battle Stallion Laguna in winner-take-all crossover semifinals on October 22th at the Iloilo Sports Complex in Iloilo City while Davao Aguilas Bellmare FC locks horns with JPV Marikina in another winner-take-all crossover semifinals at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium at the same day.
The winners of semifinals will advance in one-game finals set for October 27th.