Azkals brace for Cup defense
The Philippines will be out to reinforce its status as Southeast Asia’s No. 1 team when it hosts the four-nation Philippine Peace Cup kicking off Sept. 3 at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Azkals, who have not played since the AFC Challenge Cup finals last May, will be up against Chinese Taipei, Burma (Myanmar) and Palestine in the tournament and coach Thomas Dooley’s wards are hard-pressed to retain the crown they won last year in Bacolod.
“There’s pressure [to perform well] because of our [Fifa] ranking,” said Dooley at the PSA Forum at Shakey’s Malate yesterday. “But it’s a pressure we welcome.”
Dooley has recalled defender Rob Gier, goalkeeper Roland Muller and midfielder Paul Mulders for the tournament. But the Azkals will miss Jerry Lucena and Javier Patino due to injuries, while young Germany-based prospect Mike Ott and Martin Steuble, who plays for Sporting Kansas in Major League Soccer, begged off to focus on their clubs.
Fil-Spanish defender Alvaro Silva, who plays in Kuwait, is hoping to secure his Filipino passport within the week and make himself available for the Peace Cup.
The Azkals remain formidable with United Football League Golden Ball winner Jason de Jong and veterans Phil and James Younghusband leading the local-based crew.
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