MANILA, Philippines – After a two-day break since coming home from a successful group stage of the Suzuki Cup in Thailand, the Azkals are back on the pitch to prepare for their semifinals foe, the Singapore Lions.
The team convened at the Ateneo de Manila Football field for a full two-hour practice for the first time in more than a week.
Coach Hans Michael Weiss admitted the practices for this week will be a mix of keeping the boys shape, but as well as relaxed body and mind to be able to recuperate from the last three games, and to prepare for Singapore.
The Philippines had two exhibition matches versus Singapore the last two months and has won both. The first was in Singapore and most recent was in Cebu.
As much as this could serve as a psychological boost for the team, Weiss advised the boys to forget about their past victories.
"It best we do not even think about those wins so we do not get comfortable. We are gonna face them, 0-0, from scratch and we have to work hard to deserve a win," he said.
Weiss admitted that even if Singapore lost to them in exhibition matches, big games like the home and away semifinals coming up are the ones that their veteran team lives for.
"They (Singapore) know how to handle the pressure, they are very experienced and very mature. They have a coach who has won this tournament twice, I am sure he knows exactly what to do with his team," said Weiss.
The German coach added that defense will be a priority for the home-game of the Azkals as the format of home and away gives a bonus two points for away-goals if a tie-breaker will come into play.
Weiss said that if they keep the Singaporeans scoreless on Saturday, that will be a huge advantage for the Azkals going into their game in Singapore on December 12.
Meanwhile, veteran Rob Gier, who has been thrust into the captain's role with Aly Borromeo injured and Chieffy Caligdong coming off the bench, feels the cohesiveness of the team is most critical at this stage.
"By this time we know what to do, so tactically we can’t expect much changes. What will be important now is staying together and spending as much time together on and off the pitch," said Gier.
On Wednesday, the Azkals will be billeted at a hotel nearby the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium to keep them in that "away" mode even if they are at home.
Gier is confident that the brotherhood among the team will keep them together and will allow them to sacrifice for one another even in the dying minutes if they game, anything to get them a win.
The Azkals are currently without Angel Guirado, Jerry Lucena, and Dennis Cagara who all went home to their respective clubs.
The Azkals management is still mum on the possibility of their return as their release from their mother clubs is still being negotiated.