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national coach Hans Michael Weiss and the Azkals will train in the U.S. later this year. (NPPA Images)
Philippine Azkals German coach Michael Weiss says "football is moving in the
Philippines" and the leaders of the sport in the country "must see that we continue."
Weiss was extremely pleased not merely with the 2-2 draw with Indonesia despite having lost skipper Chieffy Calidong and Manuel Ott on red cards late in the match but the fact that the Azkals held a good Indonesian side with many Indonesian players from the last Southeast Asian Games silver medal winners to a draw.
He said the Philippines is now a fiercely competitive team in Southeast Asia and "this is a fantastic achievement."
In the last FIFA world rankings the Philippines was No. 149, Indonesia 151 and Malaysia 154.
The 2-2 draw with Indonesia which beat the Philippines by a solitary goal in both legs of the last Suzuki Cup semi finals played in Jakarta and the June 1 scoreless draw with Suzuki Cup champions and South East Asia Games gold medal winners Malaysia provided an insight into the potential of the Philippines.
However, Weiss made it clear "we need hard and fast preparation in the months ahead. There is no complacency. There not one day we can sit down and relax."
He revealed that together with the Philippine Football Federation and the Azkals management they are planning a trip to the United States in August where they will honor an invitation to play against the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer and will also have two official matches against Virgin Islands who are ranked No. 182 and the national team of Belize, a country in Central American ranked no. 140.
Weiss said it would give some of the homegrown talents "to gain valuable experience in a different environment which is like a teaching program."
Discussing the Indonesian players resorting to time-wasting tactics when under pressure after the cracking equalizer by scoring ace Phil Younghusband, Weiss said it didn't bother him because "in Africa its always like that. To me compared to Africa what the Indonesians did was harmless."
However, Weiss agreed with the observation that the Indonesians wanted to salvage a draw and their reputation pointing out that "they never lost to the Philippines. We were a little unlucky but that's okay."
Weiss said he will miss the services of Manny Ott and keeper Roland Muller who are returning to Europe when the Azkals face 194-ranked Guam today at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod, although Ott couldn't play anyway because of the red card he received in the melee in the end game. The same infraction also deprives skipper Chieffy Calidong of playing before his hometown fans since he too was given a red card for mixing it up with the Indonesian skipper.
Weiss said he would start with the brothers Phil and James Younghusband who scored in the match against Indonesia as well as the outstanding Dennis Cagara and Jerry Lucena while keeper Neil Etheridge will play the whole game.
The match will be televised tonight at 7PM on Studio 23.
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