By Cedelf P. Tupas
The 2014 Fifa World Cup Qualifying match against Sri Lanka may be more than two months away, but Philippine football team manager Dan Palami yesterday said preparations have already begun with the decision to have the Azkals train in Germany.
Palami said the Azkals will train in Germany for two weeks starting June 12 in preparation for the first leg showdown with Sri Lanka on June 29 either in Colombo or in Kalutara and the return leg five days later at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
The training camp could be the toughest yet for the Azkals as Palami, with the help of the German Football Association (DFB), is eyeing at least five tuneup matches against several German clubs, including a team playing in the second division.
“We’re not treating Sri Lanka lightly that’s why we will have the best possible preparation,” said Palami. “We should still prepare and play like we haven’t achieved anything.”
The Azkals reached the semifinals of the Suzuki Cup for the first time last December and qualified for the AFC Challenge Cup main tournament this year after finishing second in their group in Yangon, Myanmar.
Palami is confident that he can have all of the players available for the training camp as well as for the two matches against Sri Lanka.
Stephan Schrock and Dennis Cagara are among the key additions to the squad which already boasts of Aly Borromeo, Phil and James Younghusband, Neil Etheridge, Anton del Rosario, Ian Araneta, Chieffy Caligdong, Roel Gener, Simon Greatwich, Jason Sabio, Jerry Lucena and Angel Guirado.
Schrock, an aggressive rightback, whose team Greuther Furth is close to cracking the German Bundesliga, has promised to join the squad for the Sri Lanka match.
Palami said Jason de Jong, the Filipino-Dutch midfielder, who has fallen out of favor with coach Michael Weiss, will be given another chance as long as he joins training camp and explains his absence during the second leg of the Mongolia match and the group stage in Myanmar.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Sports Commission has approved the proposal of San Miguel to install grandstand seats and the LED scoreboard at the Rizal Memorial for the Azkals-Sri Lanka clash.
In return, San Miguel is asking branding on all VIP seats, on the stadium scoreboard, non-camera facing banners and streamers on the stadium.
“That really is our target, to improve the standard of the stadium so we can also host other big events in the future,” said PSC commissioner Chito Loyzaga at the SCOOP sa Kamayan weekly session.
The Rizal Memorial Stadium, which could accommodate up to 25,000 spectators, has not hosted an international football match since the 1991 Southeast Asian Games, where the Philippines reached the semifinals.
“It’s about time we play in Manila,” said Palami. “This will be a litmus test if the popularity of football has gone beyond the Visayas region.”
Unlike the match against Mongolia last February 9 when tickets were free, Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta said the PFF will be selling tickets for the match through a third-party firm. Source