MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine national football team held the first day of training camp Monday at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium ahead of their title-retention campaign in the Peace Cup next month.
Among the players who participated in the first day of training were former Philippine Azkals captain Aly Borromeo and Chieffy Caligdong, as well as mainstay Phil Younghusband and returnee Anton del Rosario.
The 2014 Philippine Peace Cup kicks off on September 3, with the Azkals competing against Myanmar, Chinese-Taipei, and AFC Challenge Cup tormentor Palestine.
National team head coach Thomas Dooley is expected to trim down the pool of over 30 players to 24 by the weekend, and he stressed that no player's spot in the squad is secure.
"That's what everybody needs to understand. We need to take a look at them," Dooley said.
Azkals team manager Dan Palami said they are expecting goal-keeper Roland Muller to be available for the Peace Cup, along with Rob Gier. They are still waiting for confirmation from Paul Murders and Martin Steuble.
"Medyo kinakabahan ako, kasi first time ko nakita 'yung mga players ngayon coming off a very long break," Palami admitted after Monday's training session. "It always takes time to get back in the groove."
"But I have confidence in the coaches that they know what they are doing and that they will make sure that we'll be very competitive come game time," he added.
Meanwhile, players like Caligdong and Borromeo are welcoming the challenge of having to win back their spots in the national team after a long lay-off.
"Back to zero," said Caligdong, who has scored 18 goals for the Philippines. "Try my best ulit, baka makasama sa team."
The Green Archers player got good reviews from Dooley, but the coach did not guarantee anything.
"Chieffy, he looks very good, he looks very sharp," Dooley said. "I like what I saw from him, but it's just one training camp. You never know how fit he is. Maybe he goes up, maybe he breaks down. Let's see how it goes in the next couple of days."
"Everyone's starting from scratch," said Borromeo. "There is no one who's gonna be a superstar in the team, so there are good individual battles and everyone's vying for positions."
"It's gonna be an intense two-week training camp, and everyone is gonna be out vying for spots," added the former skipper.
The Azkals' Philippine Cup campaign starts on August 3 against Chinese-Taipei.
Match tickets for the Peace Cup will be sold via TicketWorld through its online booking and ticket outlets nationwide, with prices as low as P60.00 for bleachers seats.
The Azkals games will be shown live on ABS-CBN Sports + Action. -- From a report by Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News.