Cooper ready to take Azkals to new heights

Scott Cooper is looking forward to taking the Philippine Azkals to greater heights after agreeing to a contract extension late last year.

Inactive for almost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Azkals are still in the thick of the fight for a place in the next round of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying, sitting at third spot in Group A behind Syria and China.

Cooper has kept himself busy during the pandemic, keeping tabs with players and scouting for new recruits to beef up the team that will next see action in June 2021 when the remaining matches of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying and 2023 AFC Asian Cup unfold in a bubble setup in China.

With Cooper in charge, the Azkals are eyeing a return trip to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.

Cooper has been with the Azkals for the last two years as the senior advisor, but took the head coaching position replacing Sven Goran Eriksson.

“I think the team has improved under him and we look forward to him taking the team to another level,” said PFF president Mariano ‘Nonong’ Araneta last year when Cooper’s extension was announced.

Cooper is also honing future talents, with the launch of the Azkals Development Team last year with Jarvey Gayoso and Mar Diano among those impressing during the Philippines Football League bubble.

“When I first came here, I saw the massive potential of the Azkals,” said Cooper. “During this pandemic, we’ve been setting goals and putting plans in place to achieve those goals. I can honestly say that we can still get better and I am committed to lead this team as it continues to make its mark in Asian and world football.”

Azkals manager Dan Palami gave Cooper his full backing.

“We trust that coach Scott can take the team into where we want it to be,” said Palami. “It is just unfortunate that the COVID-19 pandemic stopped our momentum, but we have set what we feel our realistic goals for the team in the future.”