THE recent success of the Philippine men’s football team in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifiers is a testament to the abundance of talent in its lineup.
But well aware that the current crop of Azkals have to spend more time together to become a more cohesive unit, manager Dan Palami is hoping to line up more friendlies for his talent-laden squad.
“Despite the depth of talent we have here, we still need to have more games together so the players get to know each other better on the pitch,” Palami said.
“The quality got us through (the qualifiers), but eventually it will be how we play as a team that will win us the Challenge Cup,” added the Tacloban-born entrepreneur.
Two top-quality booters stood out for the Filipinos in topping the qualifiers, which booked them a ticket in the main tournament in Maldives set next year.
The returning Stephan Schrock showed what an asset he was at the left wing, delivering numerous accurate balls that made life easier for star striker Phil Younghusband, who emerged as the best scorer in the tournament with five goals.
Newcomer Javier Patiño, who scored a brace against Cambodia, also proved to be another offensive threat which the Azkals sorely lacked in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup last year in Bangkok.
With their eyes on the prize, the Azkals management and the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) are leaving no stone unturned as they have already lined up three friendlies this June.
The Azkals are slated to play away to Hong Kong on June 4, before going back to Manila for two more friendlies on June 8 and 12, respectively, possibly against Vietnam and a Middle-Eastern country.
The dates are all Fifa match days.
Azkals coach Michael Weiss also bared his desire for a training camp in the United States in August and more friendlies in the following months.
“We’ll get as many matches (as possible),” Palami said. “The first thing we have to do is to ensure the availability of the (overseas-based) players and for those who are here, to make sure there’s regular training.”
“I’ll challenge the coach in really ripping up the team into becoming more cohesive.”