For new Philippine Men’s National Football Team coach Scott Cooper, it is a case of looking back to face the future.
The former Muangthong United coach selected the likes of midfielder Stephan Schrock, forward Angel Guirado, and goalkeeper Louie Casas for his inaugural friendly as Azkals mentor against Bahrain. From the three aforementioned players, it is Schrock’s call-up that will raise a few eyebrows.
Schrock’s falling out with Thomas Dooley, Cooper’s predecessor, prevented any chance of an Azkals return after the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup despite the Filipino-German’s noteworthy performances in AFC competitions, but it seems that his replacement is eager to give every player a fresh start in his program.
On the other hand, the incoming match shall mark Guirado’s first call up since last December 2017’s CTFA International Tournament in Taiwan, while Casas, who played for the country in the 2004 and 2007 AFF Championships, is back in the international game.
The biggest star of the squad, though, is definitely Cardiff City Football Club goalkeeper Neil Etheridge. The 28-year-old goalkeeper’s rise from free agent to Championship winner and now Premier League player has been incredible, and his recent performances – which include two penalty saves – have impressed fans and pundits worldwide.
The rest of the squad are composed of goalkeepers Patrick Deyto and Ace Villanueva; defenders Amani Aguinaldo, Carli de Murga, Junior Munoz, Daisuke Sato and Stephen Palla; midfielders Hikaru Minegishi, Paul Mulders, Manuel Ott, Mike Ott, Patrick Reichelt, Adam Tull, Dylan De Bruycker, Luke Woodland; and forwards Curt Dizon, Phil Younghusband, Fitch Arboleda and Jovin Bedic.
Notable players who did not make the pool are Misagh Bahadoran and Javier Patino.
Cooper’s wards shall have a week-long training camp in Bahrain, and shall play against the said country on September 6, 2018 at the Bahrain National Stadium in Riffa. This kickstarts the Philippines’ preparations for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in UAE.