NEWLY-MINTED AFF Suzuki Cup champions Vietnam defeated regional rivals Philippines, 4-2, in an international friendly late Monday at the Al Duhail SC Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
The Azkals will now proceed to Dubai, United Arab Emirates tomorrow and will have four days to prepare before their first AFC Asian Cup match against South Korea on Jan. 7.
Majority of the team were part of the Suzuki Cup squad that made it to the semis for the fourth time in the last five editions.
The Philippines, however, will sorely miss the services of ace goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who was left out of the 23-man squad owing to his Premier League commitments for Cardiff City.
Trying to stave off relegation, Cardiff City is currently placed 16th in the Premier League standings with 18 points from 20 matches, having defeated Leicester City 1-0 on Saturday, with Etheridge saving James Maddison’s second-half penalty that preserved the victory.
Michael Falkesgaard will now be the first-choice goalkeeper for the Azkals, with Kevin Hansen, who plays for AC Horsens in the Danish League, as back-up. The Philippines has a third goalkeeper in University of the Philippines standout Ace Villanueva, one of just two homegrown players picked for the tournament.
Newly-signed Ceres Negros midfielder Miguel Tanton, who suited up for the Philippines in the 3-2 win over North Korea two years ago, returns to the squad.
Headlining the Azkals, who are currently at No. 116 in the latest Fifa world rankings, are the Younghusband brothers, Phil and James.