IF YOU’RE wondering what the Azkals are up to these days, well you’re in for a surprise: the team will be playing an international match today in Bangladesh.

The Philippines is actually joining five other teams in the 2018 Bangabandhu Cup, the fifth edition of a tournament named after the founding father of Bangladesh.

The five participants -- hosts Bangladesh, Laos, Nepal, Palestine and Tajikistan -- are reportedly sending their first teams. The Philippines is not. New Azkals coach Scott Cooper is still “scouting” for players, and a competition like the Bangabandhu would be a perfect venue for him to assess other players who did not see action in the friendly against Bahrain last month.

Of the players who went to Bahrain, only seven were called up for the Bangabandhu Cup: Louie Casas (Global FC), Nathanael Villanueva (Kaya FC Iloilo), Amani Aguinaldo (Ceres Negros FC), Ángel Guirado (Negeri Simbilan FC of Malaysia), Hikaru Minegishi (Pattaya United of Thailand), Fitch Arboleda (Stallion Laguna FC), and Jovin Bedic (Kaya).

Completing the 21-man roster are Eduard Sacapano (Ceres), Jerry Barbaso (Negros FC), Julian Clarino (Davao Aguilas FC), Anton del Rosario (Global), Jordan Jarvis (Global), Alvin Sarmiento (Global), Nathanael Alquiros (Stallion), Marvin Angeles (Global), Marwin Angeles (Global), Kenshiro Daniels (no club), Angelo Marasigan (Global), Paolo Salenga (Davao), Misagh Bahadoran (Perak FA of Malaysia), and Jarvey Gayoso (Ateneo de Manila University).

In Group B, the Philippines will face Laos tonight for its first match, then square off with the hosts on Oct. 5. Laos lost yesterday to Bangladesh 0-1 in the opening match.

Group A has Palestine, defending champions Nepal, and Tajikistan, which has a score to settle with the Azkals after the latter foiled their AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualification bid in Manila last March.

Two teams from each group will advance in the semifinals. Since Bangladesh and Laos are the two lowest ranked teams in the tournament, even this version of the Azkals has a huge chance of advancing.

Winning the cup isn’t Scoot Cooper’s main objective in Bangladesh. The matches would be more of a chance for the players to shine individually, so the longer they stay in the cup, the more time for Cooper to find the right men to add to the first team.