Azkals veterans Phil Younghusband, Rob Gier, and Neil Etheridge expressed their desire to achieve more success with the Philippines men’s national football team in the Azkals’ LGR kit launch press conference staged at the Sparta Sports Complex in Mandaluyong City last night.
The triumvirate who happen to share English roots have emerged as the remaining members of the historic squad that played in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup. In the said tournament, the Azkals rose to prominence as one of the most-followed national sports teams of the Philippines. Asked about their thoughts on the latest 23-man assembly of the Azkals, the three players only had good things to say. Gier, 34, has seen players come and go after he decided to play for the Philippine flag six years ago. He reckons that the team houses talented individuals aiming to continue what has been started back in 2010. The Azkals’ captain also added that everyone in the team should be galvanized just by the thought of representing 107 million Filipinos and they are willing to prove it next week. Meanwhile, the country’s current top goal-scorer Younghusband has been pleased with the recent set-up, saying, “We have a great bunch of players—not only great people on the field but are good people off the field as well.”
Among the new faces they will be playing with are foreign-based Filipinos Iain Ramsay, Kevin Ingreso, Luke Woodland, and Stephan Palla. Together with Stephan Schroeck and Etheridge, the quartet will be joining most of the Azkals who reached the semifinals of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals when the Philippines kick off their bid for a place in the 2018 Russia FIFA World Cup. Unable to participate in the Southeast Asian tournament, experienced goalkeeper Etheridge thinks that everybody should only be focused on what lies ahead. “Everyone talks about 2010–that’s five years ago. We need to look forward. We don’t want to be going back to 2010,” the statuesque 25-year-old who had stints with several English football clubs such as Fulham and Charlton Athletic has declared.
With their eyes set on the future, the recent infusion of talented Filipino footballers handpicked by Thomas Dooley is bound to test their mettle against West Asian powerhouse Bahrain. The two teams will lock horns on June 11, 8pm, at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan. Five days later, they will look to take three points home when they play Yemen at Doha, Qatar. Afterwards, the Azkals will be playing six more games go determine whether they will progress into the next round.