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Azkals drawn fairly in their Asian Cup debut

More than a century since it's formation, the Philippines are now preparing for their debut in a major tournament. Glen Charles Lopez/Philippine Football Federation
By Kevin Estrada

MANILA -- The Philippines were given a ray of hope in their debut in a major tournament, having been drawn in a relatively fair group in the AFC Asian Cup next year in the UAE.

After being grouped once again with their 2016 foes in this year's AFF Suzuki Cup, the Azkals are hoping for a reversal of fortunes in Dubai that was made Friday evening (early Saturday morning Manila time) as they were seeded 20th overall and in pot 4.

A new trophy and a new ball was also presented as the AFC formally bade farewell to Nike as its technical partner with Japanese-made Molten stepping in as the confederations' new partner beginning with this tournament that will kick off on Jan. 5.
The country's top goalscorer Phil Younghusband was in the Emirates' largest city as the draw assistant alongside other big names in Asian football like India's Sunil Chettri, China's Sun Jihai and Iran's Ali Daei.

In our debut at the continental stage, the 113th-ranked side, are drawn in Group C alongside Kyrgyzstan, China, as well as 2015 finalist South Korea.
Of the teams in the Group, the Azkals have won home and away in our friendlies against the Central Asians almost two years ago but were on the bad end of a rout against the 2004 finalist in a friendly last year.

Host nation UAE are drawn in Group A along with Thailand, India and Bahrain, while ASEAN's top side Vietnam are joining Group D with Iran, Iraq and Yemen.

Japan are in Group F alongside Uzbekistan, Oman and Turkmenistan.

Holders Australia will having rough defense of their crown as they are grouped with playoff rivals Syria, Palestine and Jordan in Group B.

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada