Philippine men’s football team coach Michael Weiss is targeting at least one more friendly in the middle of March as a major part of the Azkals’ preparations for the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup Group E Qualifiers at the Rizal Memorial Stadium next month.
Expressing doubts that the Azkals can play a friendly sooner considering a scheduling conflict with the United Football League, the German mentor instead hopes the Philippine Football Federation can still organize one friendly on March 15 “or around this date when the Guirados (Angel and Juani) and Rob Gier will already be there.”
“For me, it’s very difficult because on the date we could play together, there’s also big league matches in the Philippines so I already can anticipate that many of the players will not be available,” Weiss told Spin.ph on Tuesday during halftime of the UFL game between Global FC and Green Archers United at the Emperador Stadium in Taguig.
The UFL earlier renewed its support for the Azkals by saying it will have a break from March 22 to 30 to give way to Challenge Cup qualifiers that run from March 22 to 26 as well as the Holy Week.
But league officials said clubs won’t be required to release players for national team camps abroad, although they are required to release their players called up for the Challenge Cup tournament itself.
“I can only hope we still have one (friendly) game,” said Weiss, who recently came to terms with the PFF on a six-month contract extension. “If not, we’ll take it as it is and prepare as much as we can in the short period of time we have.”
From now until his preferred friendly date, Weiss said the Azkals will train during weekends in the country.
From then, a complete Azkals lineup is expected to be available and train for six straight days before playing their first game against Brunei.
Meanwhile, Weiss also said that prized midfielder Stephan Schrock has confirmed his availability for the Challenge Cup.
Azkals manager Dan Palami confirmed the development “but until they’re here, I always keep my fingers crossed.”
It was understandable after Neil Etheridge declared himself available for the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup last year only for the Azkals’ first-choice goalkeeper to be recalled at the last minute by professional club Fulham from his loan to fourth-tier side Bristol Rovers.