By Barry Viloria
Azkals goalkeeper Neil Etheridge said he will be on rest and recreation (R&R) before joining his team’s intensive preparations for the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Sri Lanka next month.
“My time now will be spent for the next weeks relaxing… I’m enjoying myself for a while,” the Filipino-British, who arrived in the Philippines Monday night, told abs-cbnNEWS.com.
Etheridge said he wants to rest his body a bit after having spent the last months in rigorous training with Fulham Football Club in UK.
Aside from being part of the Azkals’ starting lineup, Etheridge also plays as a reserve goalkeeper for Fulham FC.
“I’ve been training for the last months constantly back in England and here with the Azkals,” he said.
The 21-year-old goalie said he will join the Azkals’ intensive training 2 weeks before their away-game against Sri Lanka in Colombo on June 29.
“I will be setting myself up maybe on the second week of June and prepare myself for what comes ahead for this (World Cup qualifiers),” said Etheridge. “I’ll keep fit.”
The Azkals’ home game against Sri Lanka will take place at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on July 3.
Etheridge is confident of their chances against Sri Lanka.
“With our set of players, I think I’m comfortable to go through the next rounds,” he said.
Etheridge thinks the Sri Lankan booters’ style of play is similar to Bangladesh’s, which was handily defeated by the Azkals in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup group stage last March.
“I think the closest thing we’ve played to them is Bangladesh, which of course….we beat them quite comfortably,” he said.
Despite the victory, Etheridge said he and his team will not take the Sri Lankans lightly.
“Obviously, we’ve never played a game with them before,” he said.
“This is the World Cup. Anything can happen. The World Cup is a competition which everyone takes seriously. I know that we are,” the Filipino-British added.
German training camp
The Azkals will be flying to Germany on June 12 for the more serious phase of their preparations.
There, they will play against 6 other teams in a series of friendly games.
From Germany, they will head straight to Colombo in time for the first leg of their qualifier against Sri Lanka. ABS-CBN News