By Cedelf P. Tupas (Philippine Daily Inquirer)
The Philippines may be 31 places behind 135th-ranked Nepal in the international football rankings, but their coaches think both countries are running on parallel bearings as far as the development of their national teams are concerned.
“We need more games because the more games you play, the more you get better,” said Nepal’s English coach Graham Paul Roberts.
“We need exposure against the stronger teams in Asia,” said the Azkals’ German coach Michael Weiss.
Hoping to sharpen their game for more important battles ahead, the Philippines and Nepal meet tonight in an international friendly at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Kickoff is at 7 PM with the Azkals looking to come out strong with Europe-based players Jerry Lucena, Dennis Cagara, Paul Mulders, Jason de Jong, Rob Gier, Ray Jonsson and Neil Etheridge joining forces with Manila-based Aly Borromeo, Chieffy Caligdong and Phil and James Younghusband.
It will be the fifth match in 11 days for the Azkals, who won one match and drew against Hong Kong and Chinese-Taipei in the Long Teng Cup in Kaohsiung last week and lost to Singapore, 0-2, in another friendly last Friday.
The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) said the friendly will give the Azkals an opportunity to boost their FIFA rankings with a full squad. The match comes within an international football break when clubs are inclined to release players to their national teams.
At the prematch press conference Monday, Weiss promised an improved performance from his side.
But the Azkals’ attack suffered a blow as Fil-Spanish striker Angel Guirado has been ruled out of the clash because of an ankle injury.
The Azkals will actually get a glimpse of what to expect in the AFC Challenge Cup next year in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.
Nepal and the Philippines are two of eight teams that qualified for the tournament, which stakes a spot in the 2015 Asian Cup.
“We saw glimpses of good football (from Nepal),” said Weiss. “They lost against North Korea which is not a big surprise. But it will be a totally different match tonight. We expect a stubborn and resistant side.”
Roberts, a former England international who captained Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, expects a tough test for his young side.