MANILA, Philippines - Fil-British goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and others who missed the Philippines’ semifinals-making campaign in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup return to action for the Azkals tonight when they play Myanmar in Yangon.
After skipping the Asean tilt last November and December due to commitment with Fulham FC, Etheridge takes the job in front of the goal again in the international friendly set 6:30 p.m. (Manila time) at the Youth Training Centre in Thuwunna.
He is backed up by Eduard Sacapano, who dished out a solid performance manning the post in Etheridge’s absence in the Suzuki Cup and Ref Cuaresma.
Fil-German Manny Ott, another Suzuki Cup absentee, is also back in the lineup to help the midfield. He last donned the national colors with the U-23 team in the 2011 Southeast Asian Games.
Army defenders Roel Gener and Boogie Margarse, who were cut in the final roster of the Suzuki Cup side, got fresh call-up for the Myanmar fixture, along with Air Force striker Ian Araneta.
Captain Chieffy Caligdong, Rob Gier, Phil and James Younghusband, Chris Greatwich, Patrick Reichelt, Marwin Angeles and his twin brother Marvin, Jeff Christiaens, OJ Porteria, Matt Uy and Jason de Jong round out the 19-man lineup assembled by coach Michael Weiss for the match, part of the Azkals’ buildup for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in March.
Weiss said he might give players their chance, particularly those who were not able to play much in the Suzuki Cup.
The Pinoy booters and the Burmese face off just two months since their Group A encounter in the Suzuki Cup held in Bangkok. The Azkals won that one, 2-0, behind goals by Phil Younghusband and Angel Guirado, to clinch a spot to the Last-4.
That was also Phl first win over Myanmar their after six losses and three draws since 1995.
“Myanmar is a strong team. It’s not a given that because we beat them in the Suzuki Cup, we can win against them easily. We want to win this but it’s still a test match. What’s important is to get players into better fitness levels for the Challenge Cup,” said Weiss.
They face a young White Angels side, which will play without injured top gun Kyi Lin. New faces in the 25-man lineup include Nanda Kyaw, Htoo Htoo Aung, Maung Maung Soe from Magwe F.C. and Yangon United’s home-grown midfielder Si Thu Aung, who have not previously featured for Myanmar’s national side.