More friendlies to toughen Azkals PFF plans 4-country tourney
MANILA—Like Philippine Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss, the country’s football top honcho, Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, longs for the day when the national team will have the best available players, particularly the standouts based in Europe.
Araneta told the Inquirer yesterday that he plans to invite Asian countries like Malaysia, Hong Kong and China to play against the Azkals late this year or early next year.
Player availability has always been a problem for the Azkals as some of their best players like Stephan Schrock, Ray Jonsson and Neil Etheridge ply their trade in European leagues.
The trio played in the second round World Cup Qualifying duel against Kuwait last night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium after they were allowed by their European clubs at the last minute.
Araneta feels the current squad can still get better with the infusion of Europe-based players like Paul Mulders, Jerry Lucena and Dennis Cagara, whose availability are always in doubt because of club commitments.
“We really want to have the best available players for the team to have time to play together because that’s the only way we can improve,” said Araneta, who was also a national player in the late 70s until the early 80s.
“Those friendlies with our best players are the only way we can really gauge how good our team is and how good they can become.”
Araneta said that the only way to have the squad together is to set friendlies that are in line with the Fifa calendar.
The Azkals were in Myanmar for the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers when international friendlies were held.
They were in training camp in Germany during the international break last June and Araneta said the team missed the chance of playing friendlies against teams in the Middle East because they were in Germany.
Weiss said the current Azkals squad is still two to three years away from reaching its full potential.
“Our development has been fast, but in reality the process is longer,” said Weiss, who has three wins, three draws and two losses in his first six months in charge of the Azkals.
“The team has a lot of potential, but it will take time.”