MANILA, Philippines - If he could have his way, Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta would keep the core of the team that recently won the Peace Cup crown in the Azkals lineup.
“They showed that they can play at a high level and that they can step up even without the regular stars. They have shown that,” the PFF chief told yesterday’s PSA Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
Araneta is convinced that a team that is based in the country, one that trains and stays together will have a better chance in international tournaments as big as the Suzuki Cup in November.
But it doesn’t mean that the Azkals coaching staff, including management, should no longer tap the services of the foreign-based Fil-foreigners.
All that is needed, according to Araneta, is to make sure those who are tapped to come in late are those who can jell with the team faster and easier.
The country’s first international football title in 99 years came despite the absence of the big guns like Neil Etheridge, Phil and James Younghusband, Stephen Schrock, Rob Gier and Jerry Lucena.
Making up for their absence because of various commitments here and abroad were a bunch of under-22 players and a couple of promising recruits like Matt Uy, Demi Omphroy, OJ Porteria, Jeff Christiaens and Patrick Reichelt.
Old hands Chieffy Caligdong, Denis Wolf, Misagh Bahadoran, Carlos de Murga, Lexton Moy, Ian Araneta and Edward Sacapano kept the team glued inside the field.
“Of course, we want a team that plays together. That’s very important,” he said.
“We can still think about injecting two or three players from Europe, players with top-quality games, like Stephen Schrock who can adapt to the style of the team any time he’s there,” he said.
Schrock plays in the division one league in Germany, and Araneta must have noticed that he doesn’t have any problem adjusting to the Azkals brand of play while playing midfield.
Since most of the players in the Peace Cup are seeing action in the UFL Cup, there’s a very good chance that most of them can keep their spots in the Azkals lineup.
“All of them will play in the UFL so there’s a chance we can have an intact team. They already have shown they can be relied upon.
“We will try to develop this team and from time to time we call in players from Europe. We need players that can jell with the team,” said Araneta.