The Philippine Azkals

The Philippine Azkals hope to use the additional time trying to be as prepared as possible for the pandemic-delayed AFF Suzuki Cup 2020.

Southeast Asia’s biggest football competition kicks off Sunday, Dec. 5 with a pair of Group A matches in Singapore while the Azkals drew an opening bye.

English coach Stewart Hall, appointed to call the shots for the Azkals, said having a bye will help a great deal for his squad that needs plenty of training time as they can before plunging into action on Wednesday. Dec. 8 against host Singapore.

“I think you’re aware from previous press statements that we’re actually short of the usual squad. So the longer we have with the players, the better it is for us in terms of organization,” Hall said in a pre-tournament press conference held virtually yesterday.

“If I had a choice to play on the fifth or the eighth, I would definitely have gone for the eighth even though we have a little bit of congestion after that. I think we can handle that. And I think it gives me more time to get the players in and get the squad settled.”

A well-traveled English coach who had club stints in Bangladesh and Africa and a national team spell with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Hall will handle the squad with coach Scott Cooper still part of the staff.

The Azkals face the host nation at the National Stadium to begin a stretch of four consecutive matchdays. They play Timor-Leste on Dec. 11 and title favorite Thailand on Dec. 14 before playing Myanmar on Dec. 18 at Bishan Stadium.

The first batch of the Philippine contingent arrived several days ago in the Lion City and had already started training following a short quarantine.

Other players who are based abroad have slowly arrived in Singapore, including team captain Stephan Schrock.

Source: Manila Bulletin (