FORMIDABLE: Rajagobal rates them as one of the favourites for the AFF Cup
NATIONAL coach K. Rajagobal has rated the Philippines as one of the favourites to win the AFF Cup ahead of their international friendly at the Shah Alam Stadium on Friday.
The Philippines, ranked third in the Fifa rankings among Southeast Asian nations at 148th, were surprise semi-finalists at the 2010 edition, which Malaysia won for the first time.
"The Philippines have several foreign-based players plying their trade in Germany, the Netherlands, Iceland, Denmark, England and the United States," said Rajagobal yesterday.
"I believe they will be stronger than their 2010 squad in the AFF Cup. They are a different team with better players."
The Philippines showed their mettle in the AFC Challenge Cup in March by reaching the semi-finals and eventually finishing third.
The team, under German coach Hans Michael Weiss, have between 15 and 18 foreign-based players in their squad, and have become a force in the sport following their decision to allow foreigners with Filipino ancestry to represent them in competitions.
Among those expected to play in Friday's friendly are German-based players Stephan Schrock, Manny Ott, Denis Wolf and Roland Muller; Rob Gier (England), Ray Jonsson (Iceland), Paul Mulders (the Netherlands) and Juan Guirado (Spain).
Weiss is expected to name a near-full strength squad for Friday's match where he wants his team to record an impressive result to maintain their Fifa ranking.
Malaysia, however, are hoping to do better following their 1-1 draw with the Philippines in Manila three month ago.
Rajagobal was criticised then for not fielding his strongest side but this time round, the coach has called up his best available players as he wants nothing less than a victory on Friday.
"It will not be an easy match. We need to play well to beat them as a good result will boost our confidence for the AFF Cup," Rajagobal added.
Malaysia will also play Singapore in two friendly matches on June 8 and 12 before taking on Arsenal and Manchester City in exhibition matches in July ahead of the AFF Cup.
They have so far played 'A' international matches against Sri Lanka, which they won 6-0, apart from the Philippines earlier this year.
In a warm-up match on Monday, the national team defeated Super League side Felda United 2-1 at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya.
Negri Sembilan's Shahurain Abu Samah and Kedah's Amar Rohidan scored for the national team.
Rajagobal, however, was not too worried of his players' performance as it was only a test match.