By Karlo Sacamos
A NEAR-full-strength Philippine men’s football team enters the final pit stop before its Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup drive with a week-long training camp in Bahrain.
Europe-based standouts Stephan Schrock, Neil Etheridge, and Paul Mulders make their Azkals return as they link up with their Manila-based teammates, who fly to the Middle Eastern country on Thursday.
There, the Filipino booters will train twice a day and play a friendly against a still-undetermined foe on May 11, before leaving for Maldives for the Challenge Cup four days later.
Phil Younghusband and Misagh Bahadoran are also back from injuries, joining holdovers Amani Aguinaldo, Nate Burkey, Jason de Jong, Anton del Rosario, Kenshiro Daniels, Patrick Deyto, Curt Dizon, Ruben Doctora Jr., Chris and Simon Greatwich, Jerry Lucena, Jose Elmer Porteria, Simone Rota, Daisuke Sato, Martin Steuble, and James and Phil Younghusband.
Patrick Reichelt and Carli de Murga complete the 23-man roster, but are expected to leave for Bahrain later as they are still with Ceres-La Salle in the ongoing AFC President’s Cup in Bacolod City.
Some notable standouts who were missing in the roster are rock-solid defenders Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, and even Dennis Cagara, as well as United Football League leading scorer Mark Hartmann, Ed Sacapaño, and Nick O’Donnell.
Chieffy Caligdong and Jeffrey Christiaens are still recovering from injuries.
So some changes are still expected to be made in the final Challenge Cup roster, which will likely be released some time during the Bahrain camp.
“Hopefully we make the right choices,” Azkals manager Dan Palami said.