Azkals confidence soars ahead of Suzuki Cup

Posted at 11/17/2012 9:00 PM | Updated as of 11/17/2012 9:04 PM

Recent win, added Fil-fors boost team


MANILA, Philippines – The recent 1-0 win against Singapore has certainly propped up the Philippine Azkals’ confidence ahead of their playdates in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup. 

Azkals coach Michael Weiss said their victory against Singapore has given his charges the self-assurance they need in their first Suzuki Cup match against host and three-time champion Thailand. 

James Younghusband keeps the ball away from a Singaporean player during the Azkals' friendly with the Singapore Lions last Thursday. The Philippines won 1-0 against Singapore. Photo by Darren Langit for ABS-CBNnews.com 

“This is a good morale boost heading into the AFF Suzuki Cup,” said Weiss in the tournament’s official website

Filipino midfielder Marwin Angeles scored the friendly’s lone goal against Singapore in front of a jam-packed crowd at the Cebu City Sports Complex.

But it was Eduard Sacapano’s sterling performance in his keeping duties that stood out on that match.

Sacapano could end up as the Azkals' first-choice shot stopper in the Cup, depending on the availability of his fellow keepers Roland Mueller and Neil Etheridge.

“Sacapano performed beyond my expectations [although] he has performed well for the past year. With Eduard we are in good hands,” said Weiss.

Meanwhile, a separate Suzuki Cup report said that several Filipino-foreign players were allowed to join the Azkals in the Suzuki Cup opener November 24. 

Team manager Dan Palami reportedly told local media that Angel Guirado, Paul Mulders, Dennis Cagara and Jerry Lucena received clearances from their respective clubs to join the national team.

Guirado’s participation in the Cup was earlier blocked by his Indian club Salgaocar, but Palami said the club changed its mind.

The presence of Guirado and Mulders on the front line is expected to strengthen the Azkals’ offense, while Cagara and Lucena are expected to beef up the defensive backline.

Palami said they are still hoping that keepers Etheridge and Muller and midfielder Stephan Schrock will be allowed by their respective clubs to join the Cup.

Filipino-British striker Phil Younghusband is convinced that they can improve from their 2010 semis because of their fuller roster.

“‘Yung team namin ngayon mas malakas kaysa noong 2010. So mas confident kaysa 2010 because we have a strong team,” he said.

Palami, for his part, said the local support also plays a big part in uplifting the team’s morale.

“Nung palabas kami sa 2010, ang sabi nila sa amin 'sana 'wag kayong tambakan.' Ngayon [kapag] mag-draw kami medyo disappointed na so nag-iba na rin ang pananaw ng kababayan natin,” said Palami. -- With a report from Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News