Tough tuneup matches for Philippine Azkals

Determined to whip his squad into the best possible form, Philippine Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss has lined up four tough tuneup matches for the national side in their two-week training camp in Duren, Germany.

The Azkals will be facing a German second and third division sides and two other formidable foes as they step up their preparations for the 2014 Fifa World Cup Qualifying first round clash against Sri Lanka on June 29 and July 3.

“It should be a stronger team,” Weiss told the Inquirer when asked to compare his squad from the team he has now than the one that hurdled the AFC Challenge Cup qualifying stage last March.

“In Germany, we go for cohesion, we go for team spirit, better compactness and not to be vulnerable on the defensive end so much and then work on our usual offensive style,” Weiss added.

First up for the Azkals is a clash with a selection team based in Duren composed of fourth and fifth division players in the area on June 15, three days after leaving Manila.

The team, Weiss said, played top German club Bayern Munich recently and barely lost 3-4.

The Azkals will also play an Under-19 squad from Bern on June 17. Weiss said the Bern side beat their counterparts from Borrusia Dortmund in a friendly last month.

The match against second Bundesliga team FC Ingolstadt, the club of Filipino-German Manny Ott, on June 22 has been described by Weiss as the “peak match” of the camp.

The Azkals wrap up their preparations on June 24 against newly-promoted German third division team Darmstadt Achtung 98.

Weiss will have the compliment of a full lineup in the Germany camp with players like Filipino-German Stephan Schrock, Fil-Icelandic defender Ray Jonnson and Fil-Spanish Angel Aldeguer and Fil-Dutch Paul Mulders, who is still processing his Filipino passport.

The Azkals’ defensive frailties were exposed in a 3-4 loss to a United Football League side last Sunday but Weiss said only four to five players from the team that played in the friendly will be part of the starting XI for the Sri Lanka match.

Fil-American striker Nathaniel Burkey and Fil-Iranian Misagh Bahadoran are among the newcomers in the team, which will miss retired striker Yanti Barsales.

The core of the team that hurdled the qualifying stage of the AFC Challenge Cup has also been kept with skippers Aly Borromeo and Chieffy Caligdong leading the side.

Also joining the Germany camp are Fil-Danish Jerry Lucena, Fil-British Rob Gier, Phil and James Younghusband, Jason Sabio and goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and homegrown players Ian Araneta, Roel Gener, Nestorio Margarse, Ricardo Becite, Edward Sacapano and Anton del Rosario.

Weiss said Filipino-Danish defender Dennis Cagara is still doubtful for the camp as he looks for a new club, following his release from Randers FC. Inquirer Sports