MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Azkals are relishing the opportunity to have nearly all their top-flight players from Europe around with their Philippine-based counterparts as the team works on cohesion in their buildup for the 2014 Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup.
The big guns from overseas, freed from club commitments by the international break, have flown in to reconnect with the local-based stalwarts as they kick off their Challenge Cup preparations with their stint in the second Philippine Football Peace Cup slated Oct. 11-15 in Bacolod City.
“It’s always good to have them around. We’re happy we can be together for 8-9 days. We can train and always work on cohesion. Plus Filipino fans are always looking forward to seeing these top players with us,” said team manager Dan Palami.
“You have to understand that in a team sport, consistency is a very important point. We haven’t been together with the group for six to seven months, having last been together in the Challenge Cup (Qualifiers) last March. We’ll exploit the time, maximize the time together,” said coach Michael Weiss.
Bannering the 22-man side are Stephan Schrock, Neil Etheridge, Jerry Lucena, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Chieffy Caligdong, and Phil and James Younghusband.
The Azkals attended a send-off dinner for the Peace Cup Monday night in Bonifacio Global City, where they also joined PUMA in launching their new team kit.
With a full-strength squad, the Pinoy booters target no less than the championship of the Peace Cup against visiting teams from Chinese-Taipei and Pakistan. The Azkals also ruled the first edition of the tourney last year at Rizal Memorial.
“Well of course, we expect to be champions. I won’t settle for anything less,” said Palami.
“This is the kickoff of our preparations for the Challenge Cup and I think with the players we have, we have the talent to become champions. But this is just a step towards our ultimate goal – to become champions of the Challenge Cup – so hopefully, we get off to a good start.”
The Azkals will play the Taiwanese on Friday night and the Pakistanis on Tuesday night at the Panaad Stadium in the short tourney.philstar