source: Alfonso Ramirez | InterAKTV
DUBAI — Philippine national men’s football team coach Hans Michael Weiss is optimistic that the Azkals’ 10-day training camp in Dubai and Qatar will take their game several notches higher and eventually create not just a ripple, but a “tsunami across the footballing world”.
“As you can see, they’re not yet 100 percent. We’re still adjusting after a long trip and we’re also adjusting to the weather and the environment. We’ll get better as the days go by and we have players coming in from Europe so we’ll see,” the 45-year-old German told interAKTV at the sidelines of the Azkals’ training camp at the Al Maktoum practice pitch.
The Azkals are here to prepare for next month’s AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Weiss, said the friendly matches lined up in Dubai and Qatar are in line with their aim to pit the Azkals against stronger teams and expose them to international level of play.
“We always made sure last year we play opposition that is stronger than us. That’s why we have Australia and Uzbekistan now to physically challenge the players, because [the] local league [is weak] and domestically we’re at a very low level,” he told reporters prior to the actual start of the camp.
The Philippines is presently 157th in the FIFA ranking, a vast improvement from its lowest placing at 195 in September 2006. The Southeast Asian country, which counts basketball and boxing as its most favored sports, is experiencing a renaissance in football after the Azkals’ phenomenal campaign in the 2010 Suzuki Cup where they beat regional powerhouse Vietnam and faced Indonesia in the semifinal.
Weiss noted that the top-class football facilities at Al Nasr Sports Club has somewhat motivated his players to work hard at camp.
“We lack facilities for football. In Manila, we only have the [Rizal Memorial] national stadium and the pitches are not very good. That’s why I’m happy that we came here. Here in Dubai, clubs have five pitches. You can’t find a facility like this in Manila. That’s probably why you can see that our players are happy and motivated ,” he said adding that the dearth in facilities is however, overcome by his players’ desire to give honour to the flag and country.
“We don’t have five pitches in Manila. But what we do have is players hungry to fight and sacrifice everything,” Weiss said.
Asked to assess his side’s chances in the Challenge Cup, the 45-year-old German is optimistic that they can duplicate the “magic” the team pulled off in the 2010 Suzuki Cup.
“If we can bring in a few more European-based players we’ll have a good chance to make top four in Nepal. Should we get to the semi-finals you never know what might happen,” he said.
“Our primary goal is to win and that would cause a tsunami across the footballing world.”