Six tuneup matches ahead for Philippine Azkals

By Francis Santiago

National coach Hans Michael Weiss said he will need six tuneup matches against club teams in Asia to whip the Philippine Azkals into fighting form for the qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that starts this June.

“We will start training beginning of May,” the German coach said yesterday.

The Azkals returned home before dawn yesterday, fresh from their victorious campaign in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in Myanmar, and Weiss doesn’t want to waste time in mapping out their battle plan for their next important mission.

“Coach Weiss has proposed to have five to six friendly match against club teams,” Philippine Football Federation chief Mariano “Nonong” Araneta said before boarding a flight for Vietnam to attend an AFC conference yesterday.

“That’s the initial plan with my talks with team manager Dan Palami.”

Araneta said Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, and Australia are the possible sites of their training camps.

“As much as possible Asian countries ang gusto namin kasi mas mura doon,” he added.

Azkals co-captain Chieffy Caligdong said they were given by Palami a one month breather before plunging to training for the home-and-away World Cup series.

“Home sweet home. At last nakasama ko na family ko friends and football fans namin. One week ko din di nakausap family ko,” said Caligdong, who along with the other team members landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 on board Philippine Airlines flight PR 733 at 3:50 a.m.

The Azkals’ opponent for the first of six-rounds of the qualifier will be known only during a draw on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Palami said they are hoping to assemble one of the strongest teams for the qualifier.

“For the World Cup qualifiers, I’m hoping that we will be able to form our Dream Team,” Palami said.

Among possible recruits for qualifier include Fil-German Stephan Schrock, Fil-Danish Dennis Cagara, Toronto-born Jonathan and Julian De Guzman while Filipino-Spanish Angel Guirado, who struck twice in the Filipino’s 3-0 win over Bangladesh in the Challenge Cup group stage last Friday, has made himself available.

The home-and-away series is set June 29 and July 3, and Araneta said the Rizal Memorial football stadium in Manila and the 1 Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City are possible venues for the home game. If the Philippines advances, Round 2 is set July 23 and 28.

Weiss, meanwhile, said he will fly to Germany soon to scout Fil-foreign players for the Philippines’ Under-23 team to the Southeast Asian Games later this year in Jakarta, Indonesia.

For beating Bangladesh Friday, the Azkals earned a slot in the main draw of the Challenge Cup, a tournament for emerging football nations, to be held next year. Source