The draw for the 2022 Mitsubishi Electric Cup is out and the Philippines, as always, is in for another tough outing. The Azkals are in Group A, with perennial powerhouses Thailand, Indonesia, and Cambodia, and the winner between Brunei and Timor Leste in the qualifiers.
Based on the schedule of games, the Azkals will have a busy Christmas and New Year. Practically, they won’t get to spend the holidays off the pitch because they are either on the road or at home preparing for the competitions.
The Azkals will travel to Cambodia on December 20 to open their campaign in the competitions formerly known as the Suzuki Cup. For the second game, the team will take on the winner of the Brunei-Timor Leste playoff at home on December 23 before going to Thailand for an away game on December 26. The Azkals end their group stage fixtures with a home game against Indonesia on January 2, 2023.
Just like in the past, the result of the Azkals’ first match in the tournament against Cambodia will set the tone of their campaign in the regional competitions. Here is hoping that the Azkals will have rediscovered their bite then.
“We are always looking at the positives. The Azkals Development Team is doing well at the domestic league and we are hoping that they will improve further as the tournament goes on. The boys will definitely form the core of the team and we will be happy if some of our overseas Azkals will be able to join the team in December,” Dan Palami, Azkals Team Manager, told The Designated Kit Man.
Palami says the games will be tough not only against Thailand, which will be played in their home pitch, but also against the rest of the three teams in the group. He is hoping that the team will have a game or two friendlies before the Mitsubishi Cup.
“Preparations will always be a big factor before any tournament. And we are hoping to do that,” Palami added.
For the Azkals to advance past the group stage, they need to win at least three games to avoid any complications.
Wins against Cambodia and either Timor Leste or Brunei will give them enough cushion before the big game againstThailand. The game against Indonesia can’t also be taken lightly. Easy to say? Agree. Tall order? Yes, but it has to be done. Two wins and two draws may be enough to advance, but then again, let’s aim for the stars and not just the moon. Mangangarap din lang!
Speaking of preparations, there is no let up for the Philippine Women’s National Football Team. A month after their historic triumph at home, the Filipinas are currently in Irvine, California as part of their buildup for the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year.
The current AFF Women’s Championship winners are in a training camp with Coach Alen Stajcic and are set to play World Cup co-host New Zealand in a friendly at the Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Stadium on September 6 (September 7 in Manila).
Stajcic said the team is looking forward to the tune-up against the Football Ferns, who are number 22 in the FIFA Rankings. The Filipinas are currently ranked 53rd in the FIFA pecking order.
“We’ve reached a certain level, but we’re definitely aspiring higher. We have a lot of time to prepare for the World Cup, but that time could pass quickly. We’re hoping to maximize the time we have together in training and in matches. Our aim is to always improve whether it’s technical, tactical, physical and even mental,” Stajcic said.
He added the the match against New Zealand will provide stern competition and build on the experience the team has. There are at least 27 players in the training pool including goal keeper Kaiya Jota and defenders Reina Bonta and Reinna Gabriel.
Jota is the goalie for LA Breakers FC while Bonta played for Yale. Gabriel, on the other hand, is a sophomore playing for Cornell University.
“We have five new players set to come in as we look to further strengthen the team and increase depth leading into 2023,” Stajcic added.
On another positive note, former national youth player and goalkeeper Isabelle Mapanao has signed up with FC Malaga City Femenino Academy in Spain instead of moving to the United Kingdom. Mapanao is doing well with her new team before the season starts on September 11. Isabelle’s team is coming off to an impressive 11-1 win in a tune-up match.
“So far, we are happy on our decision to go to Malaga instead of London to join West Ham United. The academy’s program delivers tangible results. The last batch produced 10 professional players and several more received scholarships in the NCAA,” Donnie Mapanao, Isabelle’s father, told The Designated Kit Man.
Isabelle just turned 19 four days ago. And with the way things are going for her and the full support given by her family, the future looks very bright indeed for the soon-to-be goal keeper of the Filipinas.
Stay safe. Stay happy peeps!
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