BY BONG PEDRALVEZ
INTENSIVE scouting in three continents for new players plus four training camps beginning early May will form part of the national team build-up for the Asian World Cup qualifiers in late June, according to coach Hans Michael Weiss.
"We will have a break until close to end of the month, after which the coaches have been instructed to start looking for new players locally, particularly in the Under-23 and Under-19 competitions that will begin shortly," Weiss said.
He said team manager Dan Palami and midfielder Anton del Rosario, who left for the United States last Monday, will also hold tryouts in San Francisco on April 9 and 10, with at least 45 hopefuls from both the East and West Coasts, along with Canada, signing up.
"As for myself, I shall be leaving for Germany to conduct my own screening around Easter time," Weiss said. "We would like to form the best possible team for the Asian World Cup series."
Among the Filipino-Germans he would likely tap, Weiss said, are midfielders Manuel Ott, 19, and Stefan Schrock, 25, who are playing with German Second Division teams.
Weiss added he’s in constant touch with Filipino-British defender Rob Gier to help him recruit prospects for the national squad.
"I would like to see younger players joining the team, but we have to take it step by step," said Weiss, adding the first training camp-cum-open tryouts will be set on May 9-26 "which I would prefer to be held outside Manila."
"We will also make this camp the start of our conditioning for the players," said fitness coach Joseph Malinay.
The camp on May 27-June 2, Weiss said, will be a "recreation camp," possibly in Cebu, to increase rapport and camaraderie among the potential national team members whose families will be allowed to join them.
After a five-day respite, Weiss said he hopes to have a complete 23-man roster when the Nationals leave for Australia where they will hold camp in Melbourne from June 7-18. He said they are expected to play at least five matches with Australian sides.
The Azkals will complete the final phase of their training in the country on June 21-27, two days before the first match of the World Cup home-and-away series.
The draw for the Asian Word Cup opening round qualifying matches will be held today at the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, with Weiss saying he intends to "form a strong and competent team that can go up against any opponent that we face."
"If all of our plans fall into place–players, logistics, training, etc.–I believe we do have a have a chance against any squad," Weiss said.
"However, should we be drawn against countries like Uzbekistan, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, then we will have a challenging time under the home-and-away format," Weiss. "But this is football, so anything is possible."
Philippine Football Federation chief Mariano Araneta Jr., who arrived yesterday from an AFC meeting in Vietnam, said he’s hoping the Philippines would not be drawn against a strong squad.
"Hopefully it won’t be against strong countries like Malaysia or Vietnam," Araneta said. "If we’re lucky, we might get Mongolia again or even Macau."
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