NBA
Azkals prime up with 2 ‘friendlies’
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Football Federation has arranged a pair of international friendlies against Kyrgyzstan as part of the Azkals’ buildup for the next phase of the qualifiers for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and the final round of the 2016 Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.

The Azkals will fly to Kyrgyzstan to play the Snow Leopards on Sept. 16 then take their turn to host the Central Asian side on Nov. 9.

PFF general secretary Edwin Gastanes said the home-and-away-friendlies against Kyrgyzstan – ranked 107th in the world and running third in Group B of the Fifa World Cup qualifiers behind Australia and Jordan – should serve as a good test for the 135th-ranked Azkals.

“Kyrgyzstan has been performing well in the World Cup Qualifiers and they are ranked higher than us,” Gastanes told The STAR yesterday.

The PFF, he added, is working to set two other friendlies in June, possibly in the Visayas.

“We’re trying to arrange one or two friendlies during the Fifa window in June and our initial direction is towards holding it in the Visayas. We’re still in the process of inviting teams,” said Gastanes.

The Suzuki Cup will be played in November with Phl hosting one of the group stages. The PFF is eyeing the Philippine Sports Stadium as main venue and the Rizal Memorial Stadium as secondary site.

But before the Suzuki Cup, Phl XI will first plunge into action in Group H of the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers on Mar. 24 against Uzbekistan in Tashkent, and on Mar. 29 against North Korea at Rizal Memorial. The Azkals occupy third spot with two games left in the second round of the qualifiers.

“There will be no more friendlies before March. The UFL will open February and training with the National team will start before the March WCQ matches,,” said Gastanes.

Although out of the running in the World Cup qualifiers, the Azkals still need to get good results against the Uzbeks and the North Koreans to secure their place in the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers.

“Hopefully we’ll maintain our position (third) so we will be in the group stage of the Asian Cup qualifiers. If we finish fourth, we’ll be doing a playoff (for a spot in the next round of the ACQ),” said Gastanes.

ACIRC ASEAN FOOTBALL FEDERATION SUZUKI CUP ASIAN CUP AUSTRALIA AND JORDAN AZKALS CENTRAL ASIAN CUP GASTANES KYRGYZSTAN QUALIFIERS SUZUKI CUP
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