Thursday, 16 February 2012

Azkals face Olyroos tonight

By Ares P. Gutierrez
Copy Editor, Gulf News

The "stray dogs" from the Philippines promise to have more bite than bark when they face the Qantas Australia Olyroos in the last of three friendly matches tonight that will cap the south-east Asian country's Middle East tour.

A resurgent Philippine team — known as the Azkals, Filipino street lingo for stray dogs — returned to Dubai on Tuesday night after beating Qatar Star League first division club Al Ahli SC 3-1.

Azkals team manager Hans Michael Weiss attributed the win to lessons learnt from their first fixture last Saturday against Uzbekistan's under-23 team, where the Filipinos were outclassed in a 3-0 defeat.

"We were very disciplined tactically and played fantastic counter football," the 45-year old German told Gulf News during the Azkals' visit to The Philippine School in Rashidiya yesterday morning.

"We were more adjusted in the second game and we're also better organised and the team understands each other better, so hopefully we can bring this to the match tomorrow."
The Azkals, who are preparing for next month's AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal, will again be experimenting with positions and tactics as new players, including Fulham goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, are now available.

Etheridge has arrived from London and will take over the No. 1 position from Roland Mueller, who has left the camp to return to German second division club MSV Duisburg.

Etheridge, who once played for the England under-16 team, said tonight's match will not be a walk in the park.

The Olyroos need a morale boost after losing to the Uzbeks earlier this month meaning they face the prospect of becoming the first Australian team to crash out of the Olympic qualifiers in 28 years.

"I'm expecting a tough match," Etheridge said. "The Australian team has been preparing for the Olympics and I think they were in bad form before, but it doesn't really matter for, when it comes to Thursday evening, it's two teams going to play the best they can and hopefully we come out victorious."

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