Minus key players, Azkals face tall order in Suzuki Cup

Published November 28, 2021, 4:49 PM

by Jonas Terrado

Azkals coach Scott Cooper

Philippine Azkals team manager Dan Palami and coach Scott Cooper said they’ll have to make do with the squad assembled for the pandemic-delayed AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 which begins next week in Singapore.

The Azkals will be without some notable names for Southeast Asia’s biggest football competitions due to various reasons such as injuries or players failing to secure a release from their clubs overseas.

But Palami said the 27 players called up will have to dig deep in order for the Philippines to make a serious run starting in Group A against Thailand, host Singapore, Myanmar and Timor-Leste.

“We have to deal with the situation,” Palami said after the Azkals released their Suzuki Cup squad list, before turning philosophical. “I think now more than ever, the team will have to summon the never-say-die spirit that Filipinos are known for.”

Names like veteran goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, Patrick Strauss, Michael Kempter and Gerrit Holtmann are in Europe playing for their respective clubs while Josh Grommen and Patrick Deyto were not released by their teams.

The Suzuki Cup does not fall under the FIFA international window which made it tough for the Azkals management to secure the services of those based abroad.

Jarvey Gayoso got hurt while playing for the Azkals Development Team in the recent Copa Paulino Alcantara while Manny Ott and Carli de Murga got hurt during stints with their Malaysian clubs.

“It’s extremely difficult hence we have to temper our expectations,” said Cooper.

Still the Azkals were able to form the best team possible, with team captain Stephan Schrock and naturalized player Bienvenido Maranon headlining the squad.

Also included in Japan-based defender Jefferson Tabinas, who made a strong impression in the World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers last June while a number of Thai-based players were named to the team like Amani Aguinaldo, Patrick Reichelt, Daisuke Sato, Martin Steuble and Bernd Schipmann.

Nine ADT players will be in the Lion City so are Malaysian-based goalie Kevin Mendoza and debuting Harry Foll.

“We have a good squad, we must be positive and go on and show what we can do,” said the Azkals mentor.