Strong Azkals ready to defend Peace Cup crown
MANILA, Philippines — Ahead of their first title-defense in a century, the Philippine National Football Team has assembled a formidable crew as they bring together local and Europe-based Azkals against Chinese Taipei and Pakistan in the 2013 Philippine Peace Cup which starts on Friday, October 11 in Bacolod.
With players freed from their clubs by the international break, Fulham’s Neil Etheridge, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Stephan Schrock, and Jerry Lucena from Esbjerg fB will join local football stars Phil and James Younghusband, Chieffy Caligdong, and Chris Greatwich as they try to annex their title in the second staging of the 3-nation tournament.
Chinese Taipei, after finishing as runners up last year, will try to pull off an upset as Pakistan makes its first appearance in the tournament formerly known as the Long Teng Cup.
Cherry-picking for the Azkals?
After a sweep of the tournament last year en route to the Philippines’ first ever international title in nearly a hundred years, coach Michael Weiss’ squad will be entering the this year’s competition as heavy favorites with most of their best players available for the week.
As the Philippines retain their hold of the 141st spot – their highest yet – in the FIFA rankings, Pakistan is 29 positions behind at 170th while the Taiwanese are at a measly 175th.
The Philippines, fielding a “B squad” in 2012, beat Chinese Taipei, 3-1, behind the goals of Caligdong, OJ Porteria, and eventual Golden Boot winner and MVP Denis Wolf.
Pakistan and the Philippines, on the other hand, have not met yet since the Azkals rose to fame following their AFF Suzuki Cup campaign in 2010.
With the tournament falling on FIFA international match dates, the Azkals will be fielding in a strong lineup for the Peace Cup, a part of their preparations for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives on May.
Minding the net will be Etheridge, joined by backup keepers Ed Sacapano and Patrick Deyto.
Joining Lucena on the backline meanwhile are Jerry Barbaso, Jeff Christiaens, Raymark Fernandez, Juani Guirado, and veteran Rob Gier.
Jason de Jong, Mark Hartmann, Marwin Angeles, Misagh Bahadoran, and Patrick Reichelt will join the elder of the Younghusband brothers James in operating the midfield as Paul Mulders, Angel Guirado, and OJ Porteria could support Phil Younghusband on the attack.
Wolf, who has scored 5 goals for the Azkals in 14 matches, will be one of the notable absences in the Philippines lineup along with Carli de Murga, Roland Muller, Matthew Uy, Dennis Cagara, and Javier Patino.
The Philippines will take on Chinese Taipei in the opener on October 11 and Pakistan on October 15, both at the Panaad Stadium. - Rappler.com