Cooper wants Azkals to play in Asian Cup ‘with a purpose’

Photo By Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.NET

The Philippine Azkals may have qualified for the AFC Asian Cup for the first time, but new coach Scott Cooper plans to unlock and maximize the squad’s potential as the country aims to create a ripple in the continental tournament in January in the United Arab Emirates.

Cooper arrived in Manila last Wednesday to begin his buildup for the Asian Cup and the AFF Suzuki Cup in November with a camp in Bahrain from Sept. 3 to 11.

Another invitational tournament in Bangladesh is being lined up in the first week of October for the Azkals as Cooper races against time to put together the strongest possible team for both the Asian Cup and the Suzuki Cup.

Cooper said the Azkals aren’t going to the Asian Cup merely to make up the numbers in their group, which includes South Korea, China and Kyrgyzstan.

“Everything that happens from this point should be a building process so we don’t go into the Asian Cup as a team that just qualified,” Cooper told the Inquirer.

“We have to go in there with a purpose. There has to be progression for that purpose in the next two months and it’s a matter of looking at all aspects on how we operate—all the players, all the players overlooked, all the players who are strong—and come up with best possible plan to have the best possible chance in January.”

Azkals manager Dan Palami picked Cooper to take the helm after England legend Terry Butcher pulled out of the job without even meeting his squad.

Cooper said the Azkals’ huge potential makes his task all the more exciting.

“They’ve (Azkals) already qualified for a major tournament, but there can be much more than that,” said Cooper.

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