15 October 2011

Azkals prepare U-23 team for SEA Games medal bid

MANILA, Philippines - With the Azkals’ 2011 campaign already done with, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) shifts its resources to preparing the under-23 team for its medal quest in the 26th Southeast Asian Games, which blasts off in less than three weeks in Indonesia.

From the Azkals, coach Michael Weiss goes full-time to honing up and calling the shots for the Phl U-23 side, hoping the mix of Fil-foreign and homegrown booters will make great strides from a training camp in Gotemba, Japan next week.

“There’s really no time to rest. We have to resume training with more intensity (for the Under-23),” said Weiss, who inserted some mainstays of the U-23 team to the seniors crew (Azkals) that placed second in the recent Long Teng Cup in Chinese-Taipei.

“With the national (seniors) team having the Long Teng Cup, the under-23 is a little bit behind. Hopefully, we can catch up in the Japan camp,” he said.

The Under-23 side will be in Gotemba, Japan from Oct. 23-31, to train in the same facilities where the Azkals held camp last March in the buildup for their AFC Challenge Cup playoff match with Mongolia.

Weiss said they are arranging tuneup matches with strong Japanese university teams to prepare his wards for the SEA Games in Indonesia, where football’s schedule was moved to Nov. 3 from its original Nov. 7 kickoff.

Three recruits based abroad, Fil-Spanish Carli de Murga, Fil-German Roland Muller and Fil-Belgian Jeffrey Christiaens, are still uncertain to join the Japan camp, according to team coordinator Jojie Ronda, but have given their commitment to play in the SEAG.

From Japan, the team will return to Manila on Oct. 31 then leave for Jakarta the following day.

Fil-Dutch Azkal Jason de Jong, Fil-German Manuel Ott, Neckson Leonora, Raymark Fernandez, David Basa and Joshua Beloya are among the other mainstays of the team.

“I think we can field an interesting squad to the SEA Games,” said Weiss. “We hope we can connect very well together in Japan in camp and go from there to Indonesia.”


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