COHESION will be the key as the Philippine men’s football team kicked off on Monday its 10-day Middle East training camp in Bahrain as part of their buildup for the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup this November.
With a side composed mostly of locally-based booters, the Azkals conquered the recent Philippine Football Peace Cup, the country’s first football title in almost a century.
But with the European-based players linking up with the squad for the camp slated until October 17, the Azkals are somehow in a tricky situation with regards to how the players would jell.
“Now we take it one step further. We check how they will blend with the professional players based in Europe,” Azkals manager Dan Palami said.
Even without Filipino-British 'keeper Neil Etheridge and Filipino-German midfielder Stephan Schrock, the Azkals are fielding one of their strongest teams on paper, with defenders Dennis Cagara, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Ray Jonsson, and Jerry Lucena; strikers Angel Guirado and Paul Mulders; and 'keeper Roland Muller bolstering the national team.
Celebrated brothers Phil and James Younghusband have also been called up for the squad after being left out of the Peace Cup roster, which featured co-skipper Chieffy Caligdong, Marwin Angeles, Ian Araneta, Misagh Bahadoran, Jeff Christiaens, Ref Cuaresma, Jason de Jong, Anto Gonzales, Nestorio Margarse Jr., Carli de Murga, Demit Omphroy, OJ Porteria, Patrick Reichelt, Ed Sacapaño, Matt Uy, and Denis Wolf.
Palami believes the arrival of the prolific Filipino-European veterans will force the locally-based players to step up especially when they face higher-ranked teams Bahrain on October 12 and Kuwait four days later.
“I think it will raise the level of their game because there’ll now be competition for places,” Palami said.
Palami hopes the rejigged national team would also manifest in Bahrain the same type of teamwork it brandished in the Peace Cup.
“I like to see the team play how it did in the Peace Cup but only much better because it’s going to be done with a better set of players.”