Azkals targeting Long Teng triumph
MANILA—The Long Teng Cup may not be as prestigious as the Suzuki Cup, but national team manager Dan Palami said there won’t be any letup for the Azkals when they vie in the four-nation tournament in Taiwan.
The Azkals have started preparing for the tournament last week with Fil-German goalkeeper Roland Mueller among the notable additions to the training pool.
The Azkals are also slated to hold a week long training camp in Bacolod starting September 8. They will play three exhibition matches during the camp, including against national club champion Global FC at the Panaad Stadium.
“This is our best chance to win a tournament,” said Palami of their chances in the Long Teng Cup.
The Azkals wound up third in last year’s tournament, which they used as a warmup for the biennial Suzuki Cup Asean Football Championship. The semifinal finish in the 10-nation Suzuki Cup paved the way for the Azkals rise to prominence.
“We will try to balance with putting up a strong team and at the same time give exposure to our young players,” said Palami.
Hong Kong looks serious in its title defense as it is reportedly sending its senior squad in the tournament won last year by its Under-23 squad. Chinese-Taipei and Macau are also vying in the tournament.
Neil Etheridge, Stephan Schrock and Rob Gier will be among the notable absentees for the Azkals in Taiwan as they are focused on their commitments in Europe.
Etheridge is the second-choice keeper at Fulham and hopes to make his English Premiere League debut this season.
Manny Ott is also doubtful to make the Long Teng Cup squad as he is still awaiting clearance from his club, Ingolstadt II.
“We want to maintain good relationships with the clubs of our players so if the tournament is not that important, we would rather not force them to be released,” said Palami.
Mueller, who returned to Germany yesterday, will rejoin the Azkals on Sept. 25, a few days before the Azkals leave for the September 28 to October 4 tournament.
Palami also told the Inquirer that a Fil-Spanish defender Carlie Olaivar De Murga is arriving on Monday to train with the Azkals.
The 22-year-old De Murga, who was recommended to the team by Fil-Spanish striker Angel Aldeguer, plays for Racing Club Portuense in the Spanish third division.