n estimated 7,000 crowd that included Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., gathered at the Panaad Stadium last night to watch the Azkals tame the host team Ceres – Negros, 3-1, in a friendly that served as a tune-up game for the pool of players who will join the national men’s football team for its upcoming international tournaments.
Striker Mark Hartmann delivered to goals for the Azkals in the 35th and 82nd minute, while Ian Araneta beat Ceres-Negros keeper Michael Casas in the 46th minute to keep the Azkals’ reputation shiny despite the absence of regulars such as captain Aly Borromeo, co-captain Chieffy Caligdong and Younghusband brothers James and Phil.
Despite going down 3-1, Ceres-Negros delivered serious threats and challenged the Azkals defense in the first half, though they failed to convert the attempts with Edward Sacapano manning the Azkals’ goal.
The intensity of the locals impressed both Azkals head coach Hans Michael Weiss and team manager Dan Palami, who said that some of the players in the Ceres-Negros Team are being eyed to join the national team training pool in preparation for the November Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia.
“We are hoping to tap some of the players from Ceres – Negros as we are putting up a bigger pool for the Azkals to have a wider choice and options,” Palami said during the post-game press conference.
He said that the Azkals who arrived in Bacolod last week is a very young team although the talent is very much present.
Weiss, meantime, admitted that the team has been undergoing some problems with the players who had failed to communicate with the team, preferring to go on a “longer holiday” instead of reporting back for practice.
Weiss said it seems that success has gone to the head of some of the players.
“We have been very patient and very supportive with the players for the past eight months. We are now on the process of tapping alternative players for the training pool for more options,” the national team coach said.
Palami, however, stressed that having “more option” does not mean that those who did not join the team’s camp in Bacolod or those who did not report for practice are already out of the team.
He explained that they are giving all the Azkals time to think and consider their own options and the team, meanwhile, will continue to build a stronger lineup.*NAB
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