By Olmin Leyba
MANILA, Philippines - It took an agonizing two weeks for Fil-British youngster Luke Woodland to make his debut for the Philippine Azkals but it was worth the wait.
One of the first to arrive for the start of training camp last June 1, the 19-year-old Woodland missed the opening 2-1 win over Bahrain due to eligibility issues and only got the Fifa clearance to suit up in the wee hours of Phl’s June 16 match against Yemen in Qatar.
He got his first start against the Yemenis, dishing out a solid performance and impressing with his distribution from the backline as the Azkals stormed to a 2-0 victory for a share of the Group H lead in the Fifa World Cup qualifiers.
“It was a brilliant experience,” said Woodland, the youngest member of the team.
Woodland felt at ease playing alongside Daisuke Sato and Jerry Lucena in a three-man formation at the back.
“That comes with being with the squad for two weeks now. We’ve built a good relationship. I know Sato; we knew what we’re like on the pitch and what we’re like off the pitch. You can read what each is gonna do when you got a good relationship like that. It makes it easier for the whole team,” he said.
A former mainstay of the English U-17 and U-18 sides, Woodland was reduced to spectator in the first game at home after failing to secure on time the clearance to switch nation from the Irish, Welsh and Scottish Football Associations, a requirement from the Fifa Players’ Status committee.
With one cap for the Azkals, Woodland looks forward to suiting up again when the Pinoy booters host Uzbekistan on Sept. 8.
“We’ll work hard again and look forward to the game in September,” he said.