IF the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup Group E Qualifiers were to start now, Philippine men’s football team coach Michael Weiss would choose Roland Muller over Neil Etheridge as the Azkals’ starting goalkeeper.
Speaking during a press conference at the Philippine Football Federation office, the German mentor reiterated on Thursday that both goal-minders as well as the rest of the Azkals’ overseas-based standouts will be available for the qualifiers from March 22 to 26, which are all Fifa international dates.
And Weiss said he will be picking his compatriot Muller over the Filipino-British stalwart Etheridge for having more exposure in the past months.
Weiss said that since last November, the Filipino-German Muller, who turned 25 on March 2, has suited up for his professional team, MSV Duisburg, and helped the cellar-dwelling second-tier German club avoid relegation by holding several clean sheets.
Muller last played for the Azkals against Bahrain in a friendly that ended in a scoreless draw last October during their Middle-East training camp.
"So this is our situation right now. Final decision has not been made. From a match competitive point of view, Roland is in the driver’s seat, but we have to see how they will show themselves in training,” Weiss said.
“We have to take all relevant factors into consideration. Obviously, Neil has a longer history and has played most of the time, so I think there’s no question on his determination, passion, and performance on the pitch,” Weiss said of the Fulham substitute, who kept a clean sheet in the Azkals’ 1-0 friendly win against Myanmar last month.
Azkals’ goalkeeping coach Pascal Zuberbuhler said it will be hard to pick who the first-choice ‘keeper will be among Etheridge, Muller, and Ed Sacapaño.
“We have three beautiful goalkeepers,” said the Swiss coach, who played in the 2006 World Cup for Switzerland and kept a clean sheet in the group stage.