The Philippine Azkals, who arrived in Singapore on Wednesday evening, are brimming with confidence coming into their first game in the ASEAN Football Federation Championships Suzuki Cup campaign next week.
Coach Scott Cooper said the players are ready to make a difference when they face the host team, with tournament action firing from December 5 and goes on until January 1, 2022.
Cooper said members of team have already bonded together and are expected to be a cohesive squad ahead of their Dec. 8 clash with Singapore.
“We will know who we are, and there are some plays that we look to do. And we have committed to plays that we are committed to do, roll up our sleeves and fight and be smart to take victories,” said Cooper in a Zoom huddle with scribes on Thursday.
Azkals veteran and team captain Stephan Schrock leads the Azkals with fellow veterans Kevin Ingreso, Kenshiro Daniels, Iain Ramsay, Mike Ott, Angel Guirado, Amani Aguinaldo, Daisuke Sato, Martin Steuble, Bienvenido Maranon and Patrick Reichelt.
A group of newcomers are in, including Quincy Kammeraad, Mark Vincent Diano, Christian Rontini, Oliver Bias, Dennis Chung, Yrick Gallantes, Sandro Miguel Reyes, Matthew Custodio, and Oskari Kekkonen.
The newbies are members of the Azkals Development Team and the Philippines U23 men’s team which saw action in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers last October in Singapore.
Cooper takes comfort in the team’s efforts in its last seven matches, when they lost only two matches and conceded less than one goal per game.
With their performance, Cooper believes that the Azkals will be a difficult squad to deal with.
“This is a national team that is not easy to play against. We are organized and we got commitment, and there’s patriotism in the team,” added Cooper.
Cooper noted that their Singaporean foes have lost five of their last six encounters, and conceded an average of three goals per game.
The Azkals are grouped with five-time champion Thailand, host team Singapore, Myanmar, and Timor Leste under Group A in this biennial event, which will have games livestreamed via Tap Go.
Team manager Dan Palami, who has been handling the Azkals since 2010, said this edition of the Suzuki Cup will be among the most difficult since they are seeing action while there is an ongoing pandemic.
“The players are still in quarantine. And the only thing that comforts me is that they will give their 100 percent everytime they step on the pitch,” stated Palami.
Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta said the Azkals will definitely be facing challenges this time around.
“The COVID-19 situation has not made this campaign any easier. That’s why I salute all the players who answered the call to represent the country,” said Araneta.