Karl Decena, InterAKTV
With Philippine national men’s football team top goalkeeper Neil Etheridge suspended in the Azkals’ first match in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifiers campaign, the team turned to Roland Mueller, who was the squad’s second-choice keeper.
Mueller manned the sticks through a heavy downpour in the Azkals’ 8-0 triumph over Cambodia and got the start when the team faced a dangerous Turkmenistan squad last Tuesday as well.
And Mueller didn’t disappoint, making crucial saves to keep a clean sheet in the Azkals’ 1-nil triumph over Turkmenistan which formalized their entry to the Challenge Cup next year.
“I think I made a good job and helped the team,” Mueller said. “It makes me feel proud and happy.”
Mueller, who plays in the second division of Germany’s Bundesliga, might be building a case for himself as the top choice, especially after his Challenge Cup performance, but he was quick to deflect praise from his showing, saying he holds Etheridge, as well as local keeper Eduard Sacapaño, in very high regard.
“We have good goalkeepers, local and foreigner. Neil has very good qualifications. Sacapaño too,” Mueller said. “For the trainers, it’s a hard decision.”
“I’m sure when Neil has played, he will have a good play too.”
Club commitments have forced Mueller to miss some of the Azkals’ matches. But if given the choice, he wants to man the sticks once again when the team flies to Maldives next year to compete in the Challenge Cup’s main draw.
“I hope when I can come, I will come,” Mueller said. “It’s a superb experience for me to play in Manila and play for the Azkals. I hope in the future, there is more.”