MANILA, Philippines - Not easing up on their buildup, the Philippine Azkals will return to the Middle East in the coming months to hold training camps and play international matches in the run-up to the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in May.
Azkals manager Dan Palami said arrangements are being made to bring the team to Qatar to hold a weeklong session beginning April 8 and pick up match fitness in matches against Nepal and Qatari club Al-Ahli.
Another camp is being lined up for the wards of new coach Thomas Dooley in Bahrain from May 6-16 to wrap up their preparations for the Challenge Cup, which is slated May 19-30 in Maldives.
In between, the Azkals, at least those based in Manila, will gather together for four-day training sessions.
“Preparation is key for us in the Challenge Cup. All the other countries are taking the tournament seriously. We cannot afford to relax especially now that we’re putting in a new system under our new coach,” Palami said.
Dooley, a former US skipper and World Cup veteran, has taken over only last February and is making the most out of his first overseas camp with the Azkals to introduce his system.
The Azkals battled Malaysia to a scoreless draw on the road last Saturday and were slated to pit skills with Euro side Azerbaijan last night in Dubai.
For Dooley, this sojourn is not really about getting good results against their opponents but rather growing together from the experience.
“I’d rather lose four matches now and learn from it than lose in the Maldives,” the German-born American mentor said.
The Azkals will be gunning for no less than the title in the Maldives Challenge Cup in a spirited bid to qualify for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Sydney, the top-tier tournament in the continent.