MANILA, Philippines -- Parading what could be the best lineup in his stint with the Azkals, Philippine national team coach Hans Michael Weiss sounds a clear notice for opponents in the AFC Challenge Cup Group E Qualifiers.
The home team will be bannered by their contingent of Fil-Foreigners playing in Europe led by Fulham’s Neil Etheridge, Hoffenheim’s Stephan Schrock, and the Guirado brothers from Spain, among others.
Former Cordoba FC striker and now Buriram United's Javier Patino is, meanwhile, debuting for the National Team and his teammates have only good words for him.
“The boy has come in February twice in order to clear his papers. It shows his dedication to the team. It's good that he's playing for Buriram so that he's closer to the Philippines,” said Weiss about his new striker.
Despite having little time to train together, the German coach is confident that his Euro boys and the home-based players in Caligdong, Ed Sacapano and the Younghusband brothers would have not much trouble blending together as a squad.
Pressure is on Azkals
He also acknowledges, however, that the pressure will be on them given their complete lineup and with the home crowd rooting for them in Rizal Memorial.
“I think we work for this pressure. We managed to cope with this pressure with the group of players we have. I feel more excitement than pressure and everyone is looking forward to this tournament.”
Turkmenistan, which is billed as the force to reckon with in the group along with the hosts, is also in high hopes and will look to build on their Semifinal win against the Azkals in the last edition of the Challenge Cup in Nepal last 2012.
“Our target is to qualify for Maldives,” said Turkmenistan coach Ýazguly Hojageldyýew.
Cambodia should also not be overlooked as they will come in as the dark horse of the tournament as they drew the Azkals goalless last September. This time though, they will rely on a relatively younger squad in preparation of the biennial regional meet.
“We have a young squad with us who will also be participating in the South East Asian Games,” Cambodia head coach Prak Sovannara told reporters in the press con. - Rappler.com