BAGUIO CITY—The prospect of playing the second leg of its AFC Challenge Cup qualifying match against Mongolia minus several key players isn’t putting a dent on the Philippine football team’s confidence.
Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, defender Rob Gier and midfielders Simon and Chris Greatwich may not be available for the Azkals in the second leg in Ulan Bator, but skipper Aly Borromeo expressed optimism that the squad will still be up to the challenge.
Filipino-Dutch midfielder Jason de Jong will arrive late for the crucial March 15 match since his new club, Persiba Balikpapan, will be playing an Indonesian Super League game two days before the match.
“The ones who are not available I cannot count on them as much as I might regret it,” said the Azkals’ German coach Hans Michael Weiss. “The ones who are here will do the job. We just need to make a few adjustments, especially with the goalkeeper.”
If Etheridge cannot make it, 30-year-old Army keeper Eduard Sacapano would make a rare start for the Azkals.
“It’s quite hard because we still don’t know the composition of the team that’s actually going to Mongolia,” Borromeo told the Inquirer shortly after the team’s training at Brent School grounds here.
“We don’t know if the other guys can make it. We’re just working on what we have, and I think the local guys can handle Mongolia.”
If the Azkals hurdle Mongolia, they will advance to the group stage qualifying in Myanmar against the host country,
Palestine and Bangladesh from March 20 to 31.
Borromeo stressed the importance of identifying a regular starting group for the Mongolia match as soon as possible.
The Azkals overpowered a Baguio selection, 9-1, Wednesday in their first tuneup match since beating Mongolia, 2-0, in the first leg in Bacolod City two weeks ago.