By Malaya Business Insight
Philippine football team manager Dan Palami yesterday expressed confidence the Azkals will overcome Sri Lanka in their two-leg first round meeting in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in June.
Appearing at the weekly PSA Forum at the Shakey’s-UN Avenue in Manila, Palami believes the team to be assembled for the World Cup qualifying will be the strongest yet for the country, which has not gone past the first round in previous competitions.
The Azkals play Sri Lanka on June 29 in Colombo for the first leg, before returning to Manila for the second leg on July 3 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The winner of the tie will advance to the second round opposite Kuwait.
With the Azkals toughening up in Germany for two weeks before the match against Sri Lanka, Palami also pointed out the team will have the best preparation it could have for the tournament.
“With our preparation and the quality of our players, it’s safe to say that we will have more than a fair chance against Sri Lanka,” Palami said at the weekly forum sponsored by Smart, Pagcor, Shakey’s and Outlast Battery.
“Sri Lanka is better than Bangladesh, but we will also have a stronger lineup than when we played Bangladesh,” added Palami, considered as the brain behind the new-found popularity of the country’s men’s football team. “There will be a 150 percent improvement in our lineup.”
Palami said the cost of the Azkals’ World Cup qualifying bid will reach P15 million alone for the first two rounds and he will need more sponsors to fund the campaign.
The Azkals team manager said the team will launch a campaign, dubbed “We Believe,” to encourage companies and private individuals to support the team.
“We’re hoping that more people will believe in our team and support it because we really need it now,” he added.
Palami said making it to the third round of the qualifiers will already be a big achievement for the Azkals. “We have to be realistic,” he said.
The Azkals beat Bangladesh 3-0 in the AFC Challenge Cup in Myanmar.
Fil-Germans Stephan Schrock and Manny Ott will be included in the lineup for the World Cup qualifiers, along with Fil-Danish leftback Dennis Cagara.
Two more players picked from the tryouts conducted by Azkals skipper Aly Borromeo and Anton Del Rosario in the United States are also expected to beef up the squad.
Palami also said Fil-Dutch midfielder Jason De Jong is welcome to train with the squad, but his return to the final lineup will depend on Azkals coach Michael Weiss.
De Jong got the ire of Weiss because of his unexplained absence in the 2nd leg of the AFC Challenge Cup pre-qualifying match against Mongolia and the qualifying games in Myanmar.
“He apologized for not being able to play and said it was because he just signed a new contract with his club,” Palami said of De Jong who plays for Persiba Balikpapan in the Indonesian Super League.
“The Challenge Cup is not part of the FIFA calendar so he cannot just force his way and play for the country.”
The Azkals resume training on May 9 at the Alabang Country Club, before undergoing a team-building activity in Cebu City from May 25-31. The training in Germany will run from June 12-26. Source