Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Limpag: Azkals and the Manila fans

IT’S going to be busy year-end stretch for the Philippine national team with the revamped Suzuki Cup coming up a month before the Asian Cup. This year’s format will have the five teams in each group playing each other twice--home and away--while the knockout stage will remain the same.

Of course, the bigger event, the Asian Cup, will happen in January 2019, while the Suzuki Cup will end in mid-December, assuming we reach the finals. The two events will test the team’s fitness and the PFF’s fiscal fitness. I’m sure some fans would expect nothing short of a great showing by the Azkals in the Suzuki Cup, considering we’ve made the Asian Cup, but remember, we won’t have some of the big guns in the squad since Asean’s biggest tournament isn’t even big enough to be included in the Fifa calendar.

This is also the first time that the Philippines will be preparing for two tournaments, so how would the PFF do it? By preparing for just one?

Before, whenever the Suzuki Cup gets rolling, the PFF would be scrambling to arrange friendlies and such, but that was before the PFL came to town, making players’ availability an issue.

For next year, what if the PFF treats the Suzuki Cup as sort of its preparation phase for the Asian Cup, one where team management can test new lineups or combinations or players even? Now that’s something.

But again, a great showing in the Suzuki Cup might also be just the boost the team needs before heading for the UAE to dance with Asia’s biggest teams.

By the way, for this year, the Philippines will have at least four home games in the Suzuki Cup and fans are clamoring for a home game in Cebu. Sorry to burst your bubble, that’s not happening, even if we somehow managed to put up an artificial turf at the CCSC since bleachers are no longer allowed in international matches.

That explains the swathe of empty seats during the game against Tajikistan and at first, I thought the fans stayed home again but I was glad I was proven wrong when they started cheering and you could hear them.

For the Suzuki Cup, I think it will still be at Rizal. Besides, it’s a good “thank you” for the Manila fans who showed up when it mattered most. Having more jampacked games in the capital might also give Philippine football the boost it needs going to the Asian Cup.
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