ANILA, Philippines - Philippine Azkals team manager Dan Palami expressed confidence the team can borrow the pros from their European clubs for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup campaign in March 2012 in Nepal owing to a “favorable schedule” for Phl XI.
The Azkals face a tough task in Group B, taking on reigning titlist North Korea on March 9, 2012, former champ India two days later and inaugural edition winner Tajikistan on March 13.
Naturally, they would need the quality and experience of Euro-based booters like Stephan Shrock, Jerry Lucena, Paul Mulders, Dennis Cagara, and Neil Etheridge to handle the opposition and meet their target of at least a semifinal finish.
“The biggest challenge, of course, is to bring all the players together. We’ve seen already that when we’re complete, we’re competitive, we can hold off strong opposition,” Palami said.
“I think the game schedule has actually been favorable to us. We have games on the 9th, 11th, and 13th. In this case, the players will just be missing one game for their clubs and this is something we can haggle with their clubs so they’ll be allowed to participate,” he added.
The Challenge Cup does not fall under the Fifa calendar days so Palami would have to work extra hard to convince the club owners, managers and coaches of the concerned Azkals to release them.
“I think there’s a big possibility that at least most of the players will be allowed to play. If we can get these players, I think we could be very competitive, “ said Palami, who will leave for Europe soon for this purpose.
Michael Weiss, the German who took over the helm last January, will continue to call the shots for the Azkals as Palami expressed satisfaction with his performance despite “some debacles.”
“At the end of the day, we must understand that a football team as well as its performance is affected by several factors, variables. And one of the biggest hurdles is cohesion. We still rely on foreign-based players and they come in a day or a week before tournament, so it’s difficult to blame the coach for lack of cohesion,” Palami said.
He counted the gains made under Weiss, under contract for one more year.
“In this particular year under coach Weiss, we managed to actually for the first time, qualify for the Challenge Cup, come home better in the Long Teng Cup, and also got to the second round of the World Cup qualifiers for the first time. Of course, we also had a very disastrous result in the SEA Games and as I say, there are a lot of variables in play,” he said.
“I think we need to eliminate the most obvious ones, including the failure to get all players, first, before we evaluate coaching staff. We need to address the first and if we don’t get what we want, we’ll seek other options, including the coaching staff,” he said.