• Azkals gun for better finish in AFC meet

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    The Philippine Azkals believe it has a better chance of improving its third place finish in the 2014 Asian Federation Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup, which kicks off on Monday in Maldives.

    Misagh Bahadoran, who is part of the 23-player Azkals under American coach Thomas Dooley, said the team could finish higher than third place because of their training in Bahrain last week.

    The Azkals, who have a FIFA ranking of 140, were third placers in the 2012 Challenge Cup, the best finish for a Philippine football team in an international tournament.

    “Everybody will go there 100 percent in Challenge Cup and we have a better chance there this week,” Bahadoran, who plays for Global FC in the United Football League, told The Manila Times via online interview on Saturday. “Coach [Dooley] has a better strategy and technique.”

    The Azkals are expected to be led by striker Patrick Deyto, Neil Etheridge, Stephan Schrock, Jerry Lucena, Roland Mueller, Dennis Cagara, Paul Mulders, Juani Guirado, Rob Gier, Phil and James Younghusband, Jason De Jong, and Daisuke Sato.

    Dooley also expressed satisfaction on the performance of the Azkals during the Bahrain training camp.

    The Philippine team will play against Afghanistan on May 20, Laos on May 22 and Turkmenistan on May 24 in Group B.

    Group A has host Maldives, Palestine, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar.

    The top two squads from each group will advance to the knockout stage of the Challenge Cup, whose champion is guaranteed of a ticket to the Asian Cup in 2015.

    “We have prepared so well for this tournament,” said Philippine Football Federation President Mariano Araneta via text message. “I hope that our players will give their best for our country. To all our football fans, please pray for the success of the team.”

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