Azkals veterans Neil Etheridge and Stephan Schrock will remain among the core of the men’s national football team that will return to action in the World Cup Qualifiers, according to head coach Scott Cooper.
Cooper said Etheridge, who plays for Burmingham FC in the Championship, will be available to suit up for flag and country in the qualifying games in June.
“Schrock and Etheridge are the core of the team in terms of commitment and when they talk to the players,” said Cooper on Wednesday, May 5 in the Philippine Football Federation virtual press conference. “Neil is eligible and he’s been wanting to come, he’s just getting his passport renewed at this moment.”
The Azkals will be resuming their campaign in the second round of the World Cup qualifiers that will be staged in a bubble in Suzhou, China.
The Philippines will be facing Guam on June 3, China on June 9, and Maldives on June 15.
Though the Azkals last saw action together in November 2019 against Syria, Cooper remains confident that the national squad will be able to perform “at the highest level possible.”
“We don’t have excuses. No players are saying no, we’ve got the training camp in Doha, we’ve beaten Maldives and Guam away from home [and] we’ve tied with China here [in the qualifiers],” said Cooper, who added that the Philippines has continuously progressed in its results against China within a span of 3 years.
Currently at 3rd place, the Philippines (2-1-2) needs to leapfrog China (2-1-1) in the Group A standings to advance to the third round of the qualifiers.
Syria is currently on top of the group with 14 points and a 5-0-0 record.
Twenty-six national team players will travel to Doha, Qatar for a training camp from May 18 to 31, where they are hoping to tune up with other teams such as Palestine and Syria.
Azkals manager Dan Palami also revealed that Filipino-Germans Raphael Obamair and Gerrit Holtmann are already in the process of securing their passports through the Philippine embassy in Germany.
Cooper is also looking at including two to three Azkals Development Team (ADT) members to boost the squad after their impressive 3rd place finish in the 2020 Philippines Football League. – Rappler.com