AFC Challenge Cup Qualifications Preview (2)

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Saturday, March 2, 2013


LAST week, we discussed about the Philippine Azkals' chances in the AFC Challenge Cup and the prospects are getting brighter for the team.

In fact, last week, the Azkals held a training as part of the team's preparation for the Group E matches which will we played at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

The group winner and the two best runners up will automatically join host Maldives next year in the AFC Challenge Cup Finals where the winner will automatically earn a golden ticket for the prestigious Asian Cup.

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Here's my forecast for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifications:

Group A: Myanmar (host), India, Chinese-Taipei and Guam. In this group, Myanmar will surely dominate, adding their home court advantage. We just can't discount the possibility that India and Chinese-Taipei will make some noise. The darkhorse remains Guam whose football program is on the up. Group winner: Myanmar

Group B: Kyrgystan (host), Tajikistan, Pakistan and Macau. Tajikistan will definitely win this group, as they have the highest FIFA ranking team. Tajikistan's shining moment last year was when it defeated tough Qatar 2-1. Other teams have a lot of catching up to do and even Kyrgystan will have a tough time despite their home crowd behind them. Group winner: Tajikistan

Group C: Laos (host), Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Mongolia. This is an evenly matched group but eventually Laos will make it. 2012 was busy year for the team and, experience-wise, they have the advantage over their opponents. Group winner: Laos

Group D: Nepal (host), Palestine, Bangladesh and Northern Marianas Islands. Northern Marianas will make their debut in football competitions but they will be sent back to earth by the tough Palestine. Host Nepal will make some resistance but it will not be enough to stop the Palestine onslaught. Group winner: Palestine

Group E: Philippines (host), Turkmenistan, Cambodia and Brunei Darussalam. The Azkals will be in a very dangerous position to automatically gain an outright ticket to the next round as Turkmenistan poses a threat. Aside from being the highest FIFA ranked in this tournament at 121, Turkmenistan enjoyed a steady climb in recent years. The Philippine crowd will make some noise but it will not be enough to withstand the rampaging Turkmenistan. Group winner: Turkmenistan

The next two teams that will make it to the next round will be the Philippines and a toss-up between India and Nepal.

Group stage match will kick off on March 2 in Myanmar, Laos and Nepal, March 17 in Kyrgystan and finally in the Philippines on March 22.

March is going to be an exciting month for football, as we anticipate thrilling and electrifying matches. At stake here is a ticket for the AFC Challenge Cup Finals next year and every participating team will definitely give their best performance to claim the podium. (Junjun Carballo/Contributor)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 02, 2013.

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