THE Philippine national men’s football team’s preparation for the joint 2022 International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) World Cup and 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifiers picked up further with the start of its training camp in Doha, Qatar.
The camp is part of the Azkals’s buildup before proceeding to Suzhou, China, for the joint qualifiers set to begin on June 3.
The Azkals called up 25 players to be part of the training camp, half of which are already in Qatar and started training on Tuesday.
Leading the way is veteran Stephan Schröck, named captain of the squad which will stay in Doha until the end of the month.
Also among those in the training camp now are Angel Guirado, Jarvey Gayoso, Mark Hartmann, Michael Kempter, Luke Woodland and Alvaro Silva.
The others, coming from different parts of the world, are set to fly in for the camp within the week, including goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
As part of their camp, the Azkals are looking to squeeze in some friendly matches against teams also set to compete in the qualifiers to get them prepared better.
The Philippine Football Federation said this stretch of the Azkals’ buildup is very crucial considering the limitations that the pandemic presented to their preparation.
The Philippines is currently at third place in Group A of the qualifiers with seven points from a 2-1-2 record, behind Syria (5-0-0) with 15 points, and China (2-1-1) with seven.
Maldives (2-0-3) and Guam (0-0-5) round out the group.
The Azkals last played in the qualifiers in November 2019, losing to Syria (1-0) in Dubai.
Scheduled qualifying matches of the team in 2020 failed to push through because of the pandemic.
The Philippine men’s football team is to face Guam on June 3, then China on June 9, and Maldives on June 15.
All the Azkals matches in the qualifiers can be seen on One Sports and One Sports+. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo