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"Group of Death" holds no fear for Philippines - Caligdong

Past winners Thailand and Vietnam will be wary of Group A opponents the Philippines at the AFF Suzuki Cup says Azkals co-captain Chieffy Caligdong.

The Philippines shook up the established order of Asean football by reaching the semi-finals at the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup and plan a repeat performance later this year.

They have been drawn against three-time champions and co-hosts Thailand, 2008 winners Vietnam and the winner of the qualifying tournament with a testing game against the Thais first up on November 24.

"They are again saying we are in a Group of Death," said Caligdong. "For me, it's the same situation as the AFC Challenge Cup (in March 2012) where we were underdogs in a so-called Group of Death (DPR Korea, Tajikistan and India), so it's a challenge for us to duplicate our performance there."

Philippines picked up a bronze medal in the AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal with a 4-3 victory over Palestine, underlining the rapid progress the team has made with experienced foreign-based players in the squad.

"They (our opponents) are wary of us now because they know we have a strong team. It's actually a two-way street – they are as cautious of us as we are of them. But I'm comfortable with our group, I'm confident of our chances," added Caligdong.

The Philippines are scheduled to meet Chicago Inferno from the USL Premier Development League on August 11 before playing the US Virgin Islands national side six days later, as part of their training camp in the United States.

The Younghusband brothers, Phil and James, - both regulars in the national team with Phil the top goalscorer at the AFC Challenge Cup with six strikes - will miss the training stint from August 8-25 because of other engagements.

"Due to our previous commitments we have informed the Philippine Football Federation that we have declined to attend the US training camp," said Phil.

"But our commitment to the Philippine team remains very strong and will be for all major competitions of the Azkals."