By FRANCIS SANTIAGO
German coach Michael Weiss said he feels more excited than pressured despite his unenviable task of making sure the Philippine football team will do well in the qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup.
It will be his biggest assignment since taking the coaching helm of the national football team four months ago, but Weiss said he thrives under pressure.
”There’s no pressure,” he said, though admitting that the qualifying tourney, where they will meet Sri Lanka in the first round on June 29 in Colombo, is very significant for the country.
Much has changed since the Philippines last took part in the World Cup qualifier in 2001.
The stands were empty when the Azkals hosted a qualifying match against Laos (1-1) at the 10,000-seater Philsports Arena in Pasig.
Ten years after, things are going to be different given the tremendous popularity and expectation from the Azkals.
Proof is that game tickets to their home match against Sri Lanka at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum on July 3 were sold out in two hours.
”Everybody is excited about this, and I know what this tournament means for the Philippines.” Weiss said. “Football is only starting to get recognized so we need every win to keep it.”
The Azkals are set to leave for Germany on Sunday for a couple of tune up matches for their first-round match against Sri Lanka on June 29.
“We can expect to win but we should not underestimate them,” said Weiss, adding that Sri Lanka is not taking the game lightly and is going to South Korea for a couple of tune up matches.
Considering that the Azkals have never played Sri Lanka before, Weiss said they don’t plan to be too aggressive and will just counter whatever their South Asian rivals bring to the table.
“But we have to have cohesion first. That will be the main focus in Germany: cohesion, tactical, technical training,” Weiss said.