BIRMINGHAM City is allowing Neil Etheridge to join the Philippine Azkals for the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers in Suzhou, China next month.
Manager Lee Bowyer said Etheridge will miss Birmingham’s next match against Blackburn in the English Football League Championship due to a “stomach problem,” but that isn’t the sole reason why their goalkeeper will be out for a while.
“Neil will be travelling but he won’t be involved. There’s a bit of a stomach problem he has had for a while and obviously he is going to be away [for] international duty all summer so he is not going to have any rest,” Bowyer told Birmingham Live.
Etheridge’s presence will be a major boost for the Azkals especially for the crunch tie against China on June 9. The two sides have seven points in Group A, but China is in second due to a superior goal difference.
With Etheridge between the posts, the Azkals forced a scoreless draw against China last October 15, 2019.
The Azkals will also face Guam on June 3 and Maldives on June 15 to complete the second round of the competition which also serves as a qualifier for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
Before going to China, the Azkals will converge in Qatar for a training camp from May 18 to 31.