Azkals gear up for training in Bahrain

By Rick Olivares
Bleachers’ Brew

After the historic 4-0 win by the Philippines over Sri Lanka in first round of the Asian Qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Philippine Men’s Football National Team will take a break for a few days while the team’s brain trust maps out their next moves. The next move is another training camp in the Persian Gulf country of Bahrain by mid-July for a home-and-away series with Kuwait.

“I think we really need a short break,” said right back Anton del Rosario during the team’s celebratory dinner at the Diamond Hotel in Manila last night. “We were away for a month and while the travel and the training camps abroad are good, you just get homesick after a while. That is why the win against Sri Lanka here at home was so good.”

“Masarap na nandito na ulit sa Pilipinas at lalong lalo na panalo pa,” reinforced Azkals co-captain Chieffy Caligdong.

National Team manager Dan Palami said that acclimatization with the Middle Eastern weather conditions was just as important. “You saw how that was a problem in Mongolia although we had trained in Japan,” said Palami. “That was difficult because of the cold. This time it’s the heat. So it’s extremes. That is why we pay close attention to the players’ conditioning.”

The team manager also said the training camp was made through an invitation by the Bahrain Football Federation and the Filipino community residing in the gulf state.

National head coach Hans Michael Weiss said that it is possible that he will lose some of the team’s top players due to other commitments but he could have defenders Ray Jonsson and Jerry Lucena available for the away match against Kuwait which is ranked #102 by FIFA.

Gaurav Thapa, Competitions Officer of the Asian Football Confederation, confirmed the suspension of midfielder Stephan Schrock, who had a superb series against the Brave Reds, and team captain Aly Borromeo for their next match after accumulating two yellow cards in the Sri Lanka home-and-away series.

“We have to play a different kind of game against Bahrain,” disclosed the German coach. “Now we begin to play more quality opponents and play in quality pitches.”

During the post-match press conference yesterday, Weiss took a dig at the pitch at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo, “The pitch in Sri Lanka is normally used for planting tomatoes or potatoes.”

Added Palami, “I was thinking with better pitch conditions we can impose our offense and bring up the ball much better. You saw what happened – four goals.”

Palami added that the tinkering with this team isn’t done yet. “We should have a plan to certain situations where one is off, we have another come in and play quality minutes. We are still in need of a deeper bench. We’re still tweaking some parts and we still have that gaping hole on top of back four.”

The national team manager who during last year’s successful Suzuki Cup run bared his goal of seeing the Philippine ranked somewhere in the 120s said the target is doable and reachable. “I think so you just have to make sure we are not complacent and we have to work hard as a team. We have the talent and we have these regular training camps. We may not achieve the desired results all the time but these are things we have to learn from.”

Notes: Neil Etheridge shed tears for the recent passing of his grandfather. It isn’t only the Philippines’ number one goalkeeper who is grieving. Paul Mulders lost his father two weeks ago while Stephan Schrock is still dealing with his father’s passing a few months ago. Published in Bleacher’s Brew