Around this time last year, Filipino-German Patrick Reichelt was in rehab to fix his injured knee, his dream of suiting up for the Philippine national team put on hold.
Still far from his best, Reichelt spent the early months of his international career, riding the bench.
That only spurred him to work his way into the plans of coach Michael Weiss and play a major role in the Azkals’ run to the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup, which he considers the biggest achievement of his young career.
“I didn’t expect this (role) because of my injury last year, but I’m happy to be helping the team,” said Reichelt before the Azkals’ training session last night at the Turf BGC.
Reichelt, whose mother hails from Argao, Cebu, played all three matches of the group stage in Bangkok, making an impact as a substitute against Thailand, before proving to be a thorn to opposing defenses in a starting role against Vietnam and Myanmar.
After solid performances in Bangkok, expectations are high for Reichelt to deliver on Saturday when the Philippines face Singapore Saturday at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Reichelt played in the two matches against Singapore early this year and while the Azkals won both games, the Fil-German believes the semifinals will still be too close to call.
“We beat them in Cebu, but I think they were the better team there,” said Reichelt.
Singapore defender Daniel Bennett, who will be given the task to shadow Reichelt, feels the Lions’ familiarity of the Azkals’ style will serve them well in the home-and-away clash.
“We know them pretty well now,” Bennett said on the Singaporean newspaper Today. “We know they’re big and they’re physical, we know what to expect.”