There will be a mix of youth and veteran experience when the Philippine Azkals set foot in the Middle East in preparation for their 2023 AFC Asian Cup/2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Suzhou, China this June.
Twenty-five players were called up to join the team’s training camp in Doha, Qatar, which shall span from May 22-31, 2021, under the mentorship of coach Scott Cooper and the leadership of talismanic midfielder Stephan Schrock and goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
The returning Mark Hartmann and Angel Guirado have been named as the forwards of the team in the absence of Javier Patino and Bienvenido Maranon, whose naturalization hit an unfortunate snag a few days ago. Hartmann recently signed with United City while Guirado is currently registered with St Joseph’s in Gibraltar.
As for the midfield, Schrock shall lead the likes of Patrick Strauss, Iain Ramsey, Gerrit Holtmann, Raphael Obermair, Oliver Bias, Matthew Baldisimo, Mark Winhoffer, Patrick Reichelt, and Lloyd Fagerlie.
On the other hand, the members of the backline include Carlie De Murga, Alvaro Silva, Luke Woodland, Jesper Nyholm, Martin Steuble, Jefferson Tabinas, Niko De Vera, and Michael Kempter.
Etheridge, who is named as the vice-captain of the team, looks to carry his fine form with Birmingham City in the EFL Championship as the presumed starting goalie. His understudies are Bernd Schipman and Kevin Ray Mendoza.
From the Azkals Development Team that competed in the past 2020 Philippines Football League bubble season, only two players made the cut. They are former UAAP stars Jarvey Gayoso and Mar Vincent Diano.
Jesse Curran is another player who failed to get a call up because his documents were not processed in time for the training camp. However, the likes of Holtmann, Nyholm, Obermair, and Fagerlie were for national team duty which means the completion of their individual paperwork is presumably near.
Cooper hopes to fine-tune his men amidst their limited time together in the Doha camp as they are up against Guam (June 3), China (June 9) and Maldives (June 15) in their quest to make it to the next round.