June 23, 2018, 5:57 am
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PFF to announce head coach, lineup for Azkals today

THE Philippine Football Federation is set to announce the composition of the Philippine Azkals, the men’s national football team – and possibly a new head coach-  during a press conference this evening at the Waterside of the Solaire Hotel and Casino in Paranaque.  

“At the launch, the Azkals will be announcing crucial personnel as the team looks toward preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup in November-December this year as well as the Asian Cup in January 2019,” the PFF announced in a statement.

Expected to make the announcement at the event scheduled at 7:30 p.m.  are PFF president Mariano Araneta Jr., general secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes and national team manager Dan Palami, who were involved in the screening of the new applicants for the Azkals and their head coach.

At a football forum held last month, Palami revealed that they had narrowed down the list of coaches to three names, including current American mentor Thomas Dooley, who piloted the Nationals to their historic AFC Asian Cup debut in the United Arab Emirates in January 2019.

The Azkals achieved the milestone after topping the Asian Cup Group qualifiers with an unbeaten record of three wins and three draws, good for 12 points, capped by an exciting come-from-behind 2-1 win over Tajikistan last March 27 at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

There have been unverified reports that the match was the swan song for Dooley, 57,  whose contract expired that same month since taking over the helm of the National in early 2014.

Palami also disclosed that there were also another of Fil-foreign players keen on joining the Asian Cup-bound Azkals, and they were also be likely introduced in tomorrow’s press conference.

Whoever gets the head coaching role will certainly have his job cut out for him in priming the Nationals for two straight major tournament, kicking off with the AFF Suzuki Cup, Southeast Asia’s premier men’s soccer tournament, in November.

The Filipinos are bracketed in tough Group B,  opening their campaign against four-time champion Singapore on Nov. 13 either at the Rizal Stadium or at the Panaad Park and Stadium pitch in Bacolod, Negros Occidental.

They will then head out of the country four days later  to face the winner of the qualifying leg between Timor Leste and Brunei before returning home to tackle perennial tormentor and defending champion Thailand on Nov. 21.

The Azkals close out their Group B assignment on Nov. 25 against Indonesia, mostly like at the Bung Karno National Stadium in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

They will be out to redeem themselves after failing to reach the semifinals for the first time two years ago following three straight semis appearances beginning in 2010, ironically, when the country played host to one of the group stages under the old format.

The top two teams from the group will advance to the crossover semis against the topnotchers of Group A comprising Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Laos, with the winners facing off for the Suzuki Cup championship trophy.

On the other hand, the Azkals make their Asian Cup debut in Group C against South Korea on Jan. 7 at the Al-Maktoum Stadium in the Middle East commercial and recreational center of Duba Dubai before facing China on Jan. 11 at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in neighboring Abu Dhabi. – Bong Pedralvez
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