Scott Cooper

By JONAS TERRADO

The Philippine Azkals have been drawn in Group A of the pandemic-delayed AFF Suzuki Cup slated Dec. 5 to New Year’s Day 2022 during yesterday’s virtual ceremony.

The Azkals are joined by Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore and the winner of the qualification round match between Brunei and Timor-Leste in the group stage where they seek to secure a fifth semifinal appearance in the last six editions.

Preparations for the Southeast Asia’s premier football competition could be challenging for the Azkals in the next few months, given the country’s health and travel restrictions brought about by COVID-19.

Coach Scott Cooper’s side has not played since June when the Philippines wrapped up its second round campaign in the World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers.

“The draw doesn’t really matter as we still need to beat the best teams to win the Suzuki Cup,” said Azkals team manager Dan Palami.

“Hopefully, we get the best players available even though the tournament is outside the FIFA international window,” added Palami, referring to the Suzuki Cup schedule which is not part of the FIFA calendar.

The Suzuki Cup was postponed last year due to the pandemic and will hold all matches under a centralized venue instead of a home-and-away format that was introduced in 2018.

In the 2018 edition, the Azkals reached the semifinals under the tutelage of former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson but lost to Vietnam, 4-2, on aggregate.

Vietnam would later beat Malaysia, 3-2, in a two-legged final for only its second Suzuki Cup crown.



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