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MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Azkals head coach Hans Michael Weiss expressed satisfaction with his team’s performance despite a 2-0 loss to Vietnam in their opening match in the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualifiers.
“I am very, very satisfied with the performance. I think we can [hold] our heads high. We left everything on the pitch,” said Weiss, who is on his second coaching stint with the men’s national team.
“Vietnam is a very highly leveled up country as far as football is concerned. We’re still a little bit behind, but we were going toe-to-toe today with the team of Vietnam.”
“Considering the pressure and the chances that we had in the second half, maybe a draw would’ve been a fair result.”
Weiss highlighted the play of 18-year-old Santiago Rublico and 37-year-old Stephan Schrock.
“Don’t forget the boy just arrived 48 hours ago, played 90 minutes, so we have to give our credit to the boy,” said Weiss on Rublico, whose usual position is a right-back, but started the game in a more attacking role as a winger.
“We were not sure whether we should let him start, but there was no doubt he’s a very strong-willed person and obviously can cope with the jet lag in a good way, so we are happy to have him,” added Weiss.
“Hopefully we find more Santiago Rublicos and then make the team stronger with younger persons. We cannot deny the fact that we are in an aging process.”
Speaking of age, Weiss’ team selection for this international window has been criticized as majority of the players he called up are on the older side of the spectrum, with Schrock – who retired then unretired from international duty – as the most notable surprise inclusion.
Schrock’s brief cameo against world No. 94 Vietnam earned the praise of Weiss as the German coach maintained his unwavering support for the veteran, who came off the bench at the 67th minute for 29-year-old Jose Elmer Porteria.
A few minutes after entering the match, Schrock provided instant impact as he released Rublico on the break for a chance to equalize, but the teenager wasn’t able to find the back of the net as his shot skewered out.
“He gave the ball to Rublico, if it’s 1-1, everybody celebrates,” said Weiss as he talked about the crucial sequence.
Weiss then doubled down on his decision to include Schrock at the expense of other players such as 20-year-old Sandro Reyes and former Ateneo standout Jarvey Gayoso.
“It is a basic decision. Gayoso or Reyes do nothing in this game, this is my clear opinion,” said Weiss.
“The age is a number, but if a fit player with a big experience can still compete on this level for a certain period of time rather than others, you know, we don’t have a deep bench really, so you need players who make the difference. That’s it.”
Schrock, though, is a question mark for another home match against No. 138 Indonesia at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, November 21, after he pulled a muscle.
Weiss is still confident his wards will play well.
“I expect more in the second game. I expect more open game and we dominate more with the power that we have,” said Weiss.
The #StandYourGround and #10KStrong campaign of the Philippine Football Federation was a success as 10,378 fans were in attendance at the Rizal Memorial Stadium against Vietnam.
“I can only hope they support us in the same manner against Indonesia as well,” Weiss said. – Rappler.com