THE Philippine Azkals will finally resume their campaign in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers second round on Monday night (Tuesday morning Manila time) when they face China at the Sharjah Stadium.
Kick-off of the crucial match is scheduled at 9 p.m. (Tuesday, 1 a.m. Manila time).
The Azkals on Monday released the 21 players that will comprise the roster for the match against the Dragons with team captain Stephan Schrock heading the list.
Goalkeepers Kevin Ray Mendoza, Bernd Schipmann, and Quincy Kammeraad, defenders Justin Baas, Carli De Murga, Alvaro Silva, Mar Diano, Michael Kempter, Jefferson Tabinas, Luke Woodland, and Martin Steuble, midfielders Oliver Bias, Kenshiro Daniels, Jarvey Gayoso, Manuel Ott, Manny Ott, Patrick Reichelt, and Mark Winhoffer, and forwards Mark Hartmann and Angel Guirado.
It will be the first time that the Azkals will see action since their 1-0 defeat against Syria last November 19, 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The Asian Football Confederation, in order for the matches to continue, decided to proceed with the matches under a centralized venue in Suzhou, China.
But the preparations for the matches were hounded by several withdrawals led by goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, forcing the national squad to have call-ups while the squad was in the middle of the training camp.
At the last minute, the AFC also moved the centralized matches from Suzhou, China to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, with the original slate of matches being rescheduled in which the Philippines will now face China first, instead of Guam, in the final stretch of the second round.
De Murga and Manny Ott were the latest call-ups of the Azkals, with Ott only joining the team on Monday due the limited flights from Malaysia where he is playing his club football.
“Certainly, in the past 10 to 11 years, this has been one of the most difficult (competition) that we had understandably because of the COVID protocols,” said Palami. “These are just challenges that we need to overcome so we can focus on the game.”
The Philippines is in a crucial tiff against China, which is currently in second place in Group A with 10 points, three ahead of the Azkals, who will also play Guam on Friday and Maldives next week.
“Right now, the team is upbeat, we’re very motivated. We’re aiming for nine points here. Of course, there have been some major health concerns that we have raised to AFC and Fifa but we’re trying to cope with it and trying to focus on the game on Monday. We’re quite optimistic and the players are motivated to perform,” said Palami.
Lei Wu and Brazilian-born naturalized player Alan scored two goals in China’s blanking of Guam last May 30, the only match played in Suzhou before the hosting was moved to Sharjah.
We are now on Quento! Download the app to enjoy more articles and videos from SPIN.ph and other Summit Media websites.