MANILA, Philippines — Armed with a deeper talent pool, the Philippine Azkals are still expected to field a formidable side against Malaysia in an international friendly on June 1 even without three key players.
Azkals team manager Dan Palami expressed confidence that the Azkals could get the job done at the Shah Alam Stadium in Selangor on June 1when the national side battles the reigning Suzuki Cup champion in a rematch of its showdown last February that ended in a 1-1 draw.
Brothers Phil and James Younghusband have ruled themselves out of the clash because of prior commitments, while first-choice keeper Neil Etheridge will serve a one-game suspension for his off-field actions during the third-place clash against Palestine in the AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal.
“I think we still have the players who are committed to play and are capable of getting a result against Malaysia,” said Palami.
Expected to play for the Azkals are goalkeeper Roland Muller, defenders Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Ray Jonsson and Carli de Murga, midfielders Stephan Schrock, Angel Guirado, Paul Mulders, Manny Ott, Chieffy Caligdong and striker Denis Wolf.
Fil-Danish standouts Jerry Lucena and Dennis Cagara will beef up the Azkals lineup in the June 5 friendly against Indonesia at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Azkals are currently in Bacolod for a weeklong camp that has given unheralded players like Arnie Pasinabo, Patrick Deyto, Jovanie Simpron Antonio Albor, Bervic Italia, Anto Gonzales and OJ Clarino the opportunity to earn the nod of coach Michael Weiss.
“We’re happy that these players were released by their clubs in the UFL. Commitment to the team is very important as of the moment and we are hoping they can show that in the camp,” said Palami.
Although the Younghusband brothers already left the camp Thursday, a fresh wave of players based in Europe are expected to join the team today, including defender Gier, Wolf, Ott and e Jong.
The Azkals will play in a four-team exhibition tournament starting Saturday at the Panaad Stadium that will also involve the national Under-22 team preparing for the AFC Championships in June.