THE Philippine Azkals’ were placed in Group A in the virtual AFF Suzuki Cup draw held yesterday.
Gunning for its fifth semifinals appearance since 2010, the Philippines is bracketed with five-time winner Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore and the winner of the qualification round between Brunei or Timor Leste.
Defending champion Vietnam, which is also the top Southeast Asian football nation, leads Group B which also includes Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos.
The Vietnamese, who also ruled the 30th Southeast Asian Games held in Manila two years ago, are looking good in the past few years, as they are also in the final round of the ongoing FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers.
Since the “Miracle in Hanoi” in 2010, the Azkals only missed the semis once – in 2016 – and are hoping to nail the elusive Finals berth this year.
The Philippines is currently ranked No. 125 in the September FIFA world rankings, three notches higher from last month’s 128th place.
The AFF Suzuki Cup, which will held a year late due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will take place on December 5 to January 1, 2022.
The region’s biggest football competition will be played in a centralized venue.
Before the draw, the AFF said that it is already in the final stage of selecting the host country and it will be announced in a few weeks.
Originally scheduled to take place on November 23-December 31 last year, the AFF Suzuki Cup was supposed to be staged last April 11 to May 8 but was postponed again due to the rising COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia.
In the single leg qualification round, Brunei was drawn as the home side against Timor Leste, with the winner joining Group A.