Tuesday, March 19, 2013BRUNEI will take on hosts Philippines in their first match of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup Group E qualifiers on Friday.
The Sultanate meet Turkmenistan on Sunday before closing the curtains against Cambodia next Tuesday.
Brunei's last two games against the Philippines ended in a draw and a loss, but the hosts have already termed themselves the favourites for the tie at the Rizal Memorial Stadium with one online portal brazenly predicting a 5-0 win for the Azkals.
Though the Philippines advanced to the 2012 Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup semi-finals, where they were beaten 1-0 in a two-legged tie against eventual champions Singapore, their past record against Brunei suggests there is harldy anything separating the two sides in 2008 at least.
The two countries played out a 1-1 draw during the 2008 AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers in Cambodia, with hosts Philippines taking a 1-0 win when they met in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers the same year.
Turkmenistan will enter the Philippine capital as favourites, the Central Asian nation finishing as runners-up during the previous Challenge Cup last March.
While Turkmenistan might be a relatively unknown opponent, the same can't be said of Cambodia who Brunei met at last year's AFF Suzuki qualifiers in Myanmar.
The country's last international tournament, Brunei beat the Cambodians 3-2 in Yangon, with the previous meeting between the two sides ending in a 2-1 win for Cambodia when they hosted the 2008 AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers.
It is understood the national team are set to leave tomorrow, with the majority of the squad to be made up of DPMM FC players with coach Vjeran Simunic serving as bench boss once again.
Simunic was at the helm of the national team when they travelled to Cambodia for the 2008 edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers, where the country failed to make the grade with one win, one draw and two losses.
Only the top-two teams from the five-team series in the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers progress to the tournament-proper, unlike in the AFC Challenge Cup.
The AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers have 20 teams divided into five teams battling it out, with the winners and two best second-placed finishers advancing to the competition which will be held in Maldives next year.
The AFC Challenge Cup is the counterpart of the Asian Cup and is a biennial event meant for emerging footballing countries in Asia.
The winners of the Challenge Cup will automatically qualify for the next Asian Cup in 2015 in Australia. North Korea won the last two AFC Challenge Cup titles and are now playing in the Asian Cup qualifiers.
The Brunei Times