'Azkals need to focus on fitness'
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals will need to further work on their physical fitness to improve their performance in future competitions, said veteran sportscaster Ronnie Nathanielsz.
Nathanielsz said the recent Suzuki Cup has shown that the Azkals could not handle rough plays especially during their semifinal games versus Singapore.
“You know why we lost in the Suzuki Cup? Phil Younghusband got pushed around by the Singaporeans and he backed off,” Nathanielsz said in a recent interview on ANC’s Headstart.
“I'm not saying the referees favored Singapore, but it seemed to me they did. But he's gotten beaten up and if you're not physically fit to stand that kind of pressure, you're in trouble. And the Singaporeans exploited that.”
There were other Azkals players who also suffered from Singapore’s physical play. Chieffy Caligdong, Dennis Cagara and Carli De Murga had their share of bruises.
Singapore eventually won the Cup, beating host team Thailand in the finals.
“You can not play 90 minutes of football unless you're physically fit,” said Nathanielsz.
“That's why we miss guys like [Stephan] Schrock for instance, because he's on another level… we've got guys like [Angel] Guirado, the Guirado brothers they're tough, they play strong and Rob Gier, who's tremendous in defense.”
“We've got basic talent, [and with improved fitness] I think we should go very far,” said Nathanielsz.
The Azkals will be campaigning in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup.
The Philippine squad will be joining the qualifiers this March as they look to improve their third-place finish in the 2012 edition of the tournament.