Travel-weary Azkals stay positive
Stephan Schrock has played more than 40 matches and taken almost 70 flights this year playing in four competitions—and that was even before the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.
With the competition taking on the home-and-away format this year, it’s the players who are taking the brunt of traveling in between matches with rest and preparation now given equal importance as the tactical approach for teams.
One of the biggest threats for the Azkals going forward, Schrock limped off in the 40th minute in the 3-2 win over Timor Leste at KLFA Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
The match came a day after a full day of traveling from Bacolod to the Malaysian capital on Thursday and the official one-hour training the following day.
Although it was an Achilles problem that forced him off the pitch, Schrock stressed that preparations can determine success and failure in the competition.
“As long as we can improve our preparation, we can improve on the pitch,” said Schrock. “If not, we’re going to have to stick together as a team like we always do and look where we can fill up and cover mistakes.”
Schrock admitted that the demanding schedule has taken a toll on the players when they played against Timor Leste.
“You can see everybody is a little bit heavy, a little bit stiff (in the second half),” said Schrock. “With a travel like this no one in the world can perform properly so thank God we luckily got away with a win.”
Captain Phil Younghusband stressed the importance of rest and recovery in between matches for the Azkals, who arrived in Manila on Sunday.
The team traveled in four batches to Bacolod on Monday in preparation for the duel against Thailand this Wednesday at Panaad Stadium.
From Bacolod, the team flies to Manila, before hopping on a flight to Jakarta for a clash with Indonesia on Sunday.
Schrock said the margin for error for the Azkals has gotten smaller as the tournament enters its critical phase. A win against Thailand will send the Azkals through to the next round, but a draw will leave them needing a point against Indonesia in their next match.
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