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Azkals still in fighting form

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(AFP)

The Philippine men’s national football team is hardly affected by the sudden postponement of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup joint qualifiers this month.

In a statement, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) said the Philippine Azkals remain upbeat despite the last-minute decision of China to drop its hosting of all Group A matches of the crucial tourney.

“The team remains in high spirits,” the federation said in a statement.

The Azkals are training in Doha in preparation for the qualifiers.

They were supposed to leave for Shanghai on Monday, but were barred from entering the Chinese territory after two members tested positive in the IGM antibody tests while two others were found to have history of contracting Covid-19 this year.

Due to these “mounting challenges,” the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) decided to call off the tournament until the Chinese Football Association announced that the matches would be moved to the United Arab Emirates at a later date.

Matches will be played at the Sharjah Stadium.

The PFF said the postponement could give the Azkals more time to prepare and develop chemistry, especially after the withdrawal of star goal keeper Neil Etheridge and other stalwarts.

The federation said the team will stay in its training camp in Doha until the AFC finalizes the date of the tournament.

Led by veterans Stephan Schrock, Mark Hartmann and Angel Guirado, the Azkals are eyeing to make it two the top two teams of the group that will advance for the next round of the qualifiers.

“The sudden changes may be a blessing in disguise for us as it allows us more time to train together,” the federation added.

“Whatever the decision is, we will continue to prepare the best way we can for the matches.”

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