SCHEDULE: PH Azkals in the AFC Asian Cup 2019
MANILA, Philippines – It will be a daunting 2018 for the Philippine Azkals as they gear up for the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup and AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
The Philippines will debut in the AFC Asian Cup in January 2019 after defeating Tajikistan in the qualifiers to earn a historic berth in the tournament last March 27.
The nationals will start their campaign in Group C where they will go head-to-head with South Korea (Korea Republic), China PR, and Kyrgyzstan.
The Azkals defeated Kyrgyzstan twice in two friendlies held in 2016, registering a 1-0 win in Rizal Memorial Stadium and slipping away with a 2-1 victory in Dolen Omurzakov Stadium.
However, the Philippines has never won against football giants China and South Korea. In the Azkals' most recent game against China, Misagh Bahardoran scored the lone goal in the 1-8 loss last June.
The last time the Philippines faced South Korea was in the 1980 Summer Olympics football qualifiers, where the national team suffered from a 0-8 defeat as well.
"We were excited to qualify and I am excited with the group we are in. It will be a difficult challenge, but this is part of our development and [it] is very exciting for Philippine football," said Azkals captain Phil Younghusband who attended the Asian Cup draw last May 4.
Prior to the Asian Cup, the Azkals are also bunched in the tough Group B of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup where they will be facing 5-time champion Thailand – which eliminated them in the group stage of the 2016 edition.
Four-time winner Singapore, 5-time runner-up Indonesia, and the winner between the playoffs of Timor Leste and Brunei will also be in the same group.
"The AFF Suzuki Cup serves as a perfect opportunity for the team in anticipation for the AFC Asian Cup. The different tournament format will be a challenge not only for the Philippines but also for the rest of the participating teams in the tournament," said Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Mariano V. Araneta Jr.
The PFF has nominated Pana-ad Park and Stadium in Bacolod, Negros Occidental as the primary venue of the Suzuki Cup with Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila as the alternate venue. – Rappler.com