Australia U-23 squad pips tired AzkalsBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
DUBAI—Depleted and battle-weary, the Philippine Azkals put up a resolute stand against a potential World Cup participant as they wrapped up their 10-day training camp in this peninsular emirate.
The Azkals, missing more than half of their first-choice squad, defended valiantly before falling 0-1 to Australia’s Under-23 side Thursday night at the Al Maktoum Stadium inside the Al-Nasr Sports Club.
With the defeat, the Azkals finished the camp with a 1-win, 2-loss record against what coach Michael Weiss described as “quality opponents.”
The Azkals overwhelmed Al-Ahli in Doha, Qatar last Monday, two days after absorbing a 0-3 beating to an in-form Uzbekistan Olympic side also in Dubai.
The national team used the camp organized by Dubai-based sports marketing firm Mediapro to toughen up for the AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal next month, where the Azkals will be pitted against powerhouse North Korea, Tajikistan and India.
Playing their third match in six days, the Azkals again chose to sit deep on defense to limit the Aussies to half chances before a crowd of 4,000, mostly Overseas Filipino Workers.
But a goal from Australian A-League standout Jason Hoffman in the ninth minute proved to be the difference between the two sides. Rocco Visconte floated a cross to the area that Juan Luis Guirado deflected to the path of Hoffman, who wisely headed the ball beyond Neil Etheridge.
“It’s a good result against a very strong team. There are expectations but we have to put this into a proper context,” said Weiss, noting that Australia, which has qualified to the last two World Cups, is already an established power in the football world.
“I’m satisfied, but we were lacking in the passing game and the movement up front but we didn’t allow too many scoring chances, which was something we have been really working on. We have made decent progress in the camp even without some of the pillars of the team.”
Azkals manager Dan Palami expressed satisfaction over the performance of the team during the camp.
“It was a great camp,” said Palami. “We got better after every game which showed that the team was able to benefit from the time and training together.”
Owning the lion’s share of possession, the Aussies kept probing but except for Visconte’s shot that went inches wide in the second half and a free kick from Ben Kantarovski, they hardly troubled Etheridge.