THE NATIONAL team’s preparations for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers may be lagging behind but the Azkals are looking forward to the possibility of having a full-strength side for the March 22 to 26 tournament.
Azkals coach Michael Weiss told the Inquirer that he has gotten confirmation from several Europe-based standouts of their availability for the tournament which falls on Fifa international dates. Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, midfielders Stephan Schrock and Jerry Lucena and defenders Juani Guirado, Rob Gier, Dennis Cagara and Ray Jonsson are all expected to see action in the tournament.
“We’re happy that they’ve committed themselves for the tournament but we also have to work hard in preparing here,” said Weiss who got a six month contract extension last week.
The Azkals will face Turkmenistan, Cambodia and Brunei in the qualifiers with the top team in the group nailing a spot in the main tournament in the Maldives next year.
While the local-based Azkals have been busy playing in the United Football League, Weiss still stressed the need to double efforts in training.
With players tied up with their clubs, Weiss will only have three training days a week for the Azkals in the leadup to the tournament.
Another concern for the German is the lack of matches for the team. Weiss hopes the Azkals could get at least two international friendly matches under their belts before the tournament.
The Philippine Football Federation is still arranging a friendly match with Hong Kong for the Azkals.
“Its not an ideal situation but we cannot cry about it. We only have to make the best out of the situation,” said Weiss.