MANILA, Philippines — Except for the sudden departure of newcomer Paul Mulders due to the death of his father, the Philippine football team’s training camp in Germany has been smooth sailing so far.
“We are just on our second day, but things are looking up,” team manager Dan Palami told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an overseas call.
“The team is really focused, the guys are getting time to really interact with each other on and off the pitch, which is important to the cohesion that we want to achieve here.”
The Azkals are in Duren, a small city near the Dutch border and three hours away from Frankfurt, and veteran defender Anton del Rosario said there’s never been a better atmosphere than in camp.
“Great field, awesome weather and real soccer balls,” said Del Rosario on his twitter account.
“Everyone is confident,” said striker Phil Younghusband. “We have a strong team.”
The Azkals face a selection team Aachen-Duren at Duren Stadium at 7 p.m. Wednesday. They will play the Bonner Selection at the Bonner-SC Stadium on Friday. The match against second division team Ingolstadt is set on June 20 in Grundelfingen. The last match against Darmstadt 98 is set on June 24.
Mulders, a Filipino-Dutch attacking midfielder, had to leave camp abruptly on Monday and return to his home in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, following the death of his father.
It wasn’t immediately known when Mulders will return to camp, but Palami hopes the Fil-Dutch standout will be able to join the team in its last two tune-up matches in Germany.
“It’s unfortunate but we have to consider Paul’s situation,” said Palami.”Hopefully he could rejoin the team before leaving for Sri Lanka.”
Day One of the Duren camp marked the first time that Stephan Schrock, the highly touted left fullback, trained with the Azkals.
Known as an aggressive defender who likes to go forward, the 24-year-old Schrock, an experienced player in the second Bundesliga, whose mother hails from Cebu, has long been in the Azkals’ wishlist.
Angel Guirado, Ray Jonnson and Manny Ott also joined the training session, their first since the Azkals started preparing for the World Cup qualifying first round match against Sri Lanka on June 29 in Colombo and July 3 in Manila.
Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge also rejoined the team Tuesday, after a short trip to England, following the death of his grandfather.
Filipino-German prospects Oliver Poetschke, Patrick Reichelt, Patrick Hinrichsen and Mark Drinkuth also joined the camp, although they were not in the 22-man list for the World Cup qualifiers.
Filipino-Danish midfielder Jerry Lucena will link up with the squad on June 16. Dennis Cagara, however, remains doubtful if he could join camp and play in the first leg against Sri Lanka.