FACING powerhouse Uzbekistan in its own stadium is a tough proposition as it is, but going to battle without some of your squad’s top players makes the task doubly difficult.
The Azkals left for Tashkent Saturday night without stars Stephan Schrock and Phil Younghusband who will both sit out the World Cup Qualifying match on March 24 due to injuries.
Younghusband, the country’s top international scorer, has yet to play for his club, Loyola Meralco, this year due to a knee problem while Schrock failed to make the trip after struggling with a leg injury during a recent AFC Cup game in Bangladesh.
The absence of the two players has left a huge void on the Azkals attack which will already miss the suspended winger Misagh Bahadoran.
Manny Ott, who has made the central midfield position as his own under coach Thomas Dooley, is also serving a suspension, while Rob Gier, Jerry Lucena and Paul Mulders have retired from international play.
Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, Patrick Reichelt, Iain Ramsay, Javier Patino, Daisuke Sato, Luke Woodland, Martin Steuble, Simone Rota, Amani Aguinaldo and Juani Guirado are the remaining players in the side.
“It’s going to be very difficult but we can always see this as an opportunity for other players to step up,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami.
Dooley tapped young players for his squad, including OJ Porteria, Kenshiro Daniels, OJ Clarino, Jorrel Aristorenas, Jim Ashley Flores and Dominic del Rosario.