Cooper finalizing squadS for 2 tourneys
Striker Javier Patino and winger Iain Ramsay make their return to the Philippine national team as the Azkals step up their preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup and AFC Asian Cup with a friendly against Oman on Saturday in Doha, Qatar.
Coach Scott Cooper has also recalled utility player Martin Steuble, who fell out of favor with ex-mentor Thomas Dooley, and veterans Simone Rota, James Younghusband, Stephan Palla, Dennis Villanueva and Kevin Ingreso, who all missed the camp in Bahrain last month.
Azkals manager Dan Palami said Cooper is still in the process of finalizing his squads for the two major tournaments with standouts from the recent Bangabadhu Cup in Bangladesh also considered.
“We just want the best possible team for the Suzuki Cup and the Asian Cup, knowing the importance of those tournaments,” said Palami. “Each player has been given a fresh start by coach Scott (Cooper) and a chance to prove themselves.”
Amani Aguinaldo and Joven Bedic, who played for the Azkals in the Bangladesh tournament, where they wound up with a semifinal finish, are also set to join the team in Doha.
Although he was part of the squad in the final AFC Asian Cup qualifying match against Tajikistan, Patino, who is coming off a stint with Thai League champions Buriram United, hasn’t played for the Azkals since June 13 last year when they beat the Tajiks in Dushanbe.
Ramsay, fresh off an impressive season with Felda in the Malaysian second division, played a key role in the Azkals’ qualification run, but missed the last camp in Bahrain due to personal reasons.
Also fresh off a successful stint from the Thai League is goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard, who helped Bangkok United achieve AFC Champions League qualification. The Azkals actually boast a strong goalkeeping squad headlined by Cardiff City’s Neil Etheridge, who has also made himself available for the Oman friendly.
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