After an arduous trip travelling from well outside the city to get the press conference we managed to get there in time. On a Sri Lankan bus and travelling through the outskirts we managed see a bit of Sri Lanka, some beautiful lakes and a short tour of the city before eventually reaching the press conference. Even now I’m writing this inside the office for Sri Lankan football…. NICE 😀
The Philippines look confident as captain Aly Borromeo and Coach Michael Weiss sat down first to give a short introduction and take questions. Coach Weiss acknowledged that “The players were tired after playing so many matches in Germany and travelling but they’re ok now” while Aly is anticipating a good game. Both men thanked the Sri Lankans for hosting and complimented the hospitality of their opponents, noting that the climate is similar to the Philippines and so there should be no problems for the players adjusting.
With three new players and many of the Azkals being based abroad Weiss said the team had needed to “Work on cohesion and physical fitness” as they were “putting a new team together”. Despite these small problems the Coach was “looking forward to the match” but looking for a speedy exit out of the country with only three days until kick-off in Manila: “With the return match only three days away we hope to get back to the Philippines as quickly as possible”.
His counterpart, Korean Jang Jung, does not appear quite so sure of the Sri Lankan’s chances: “Our time has had only two weeks time to practice… We don’t know about the Philippines so much and it’s going to be a close match.” Reiterating this point later on the Sri Lankan coach noted that “Two weeks asking a young team to improve is difficult, they need more time, but we will try our best. The boys are ready to fight.”
With the odds predicting a Philippine win spirits are high in the camp despite all the travelling. Not only did the team face a 15 hour journey to get to Sri Lanka, they also spent 6 hours on the buses travelling to each of the last two games in Germany. Some players are feeling the lack of sleep but Aly Borromeo has noted that they’re ready to play and recovering very well. Predicting a Philippine victory the captain suffered a stomach virus in Germany which saw him miss two of the games but he has fully recovered. Angel Aldegeur also picked up a few small knocks but is fit again to play against Sri Lanka while Ray Jonsson has been confirmed to miss the first leg tomorrow and possibly even the second leg with his home club Grindavik having another game on July 2. Who will fill his place at left-back will be the subject of much debate, though something tells me there may be another post about that later 🙂
Jerry Lucena is also recovering from injury and will be available for the second leg if needed. The Sri Lankan press seemed very eager to hear about the foreign-based Azkals, seemingly fearful of their playing abilities.
Today was not just the press conference, though, but Aly Borromeo’s birthday. He appreciated all the wishes from the Philippines but said that the best birthday present would be qualifying to the next round: “Just to qualify for the next round of the World Cup would be history for us”.
Next on the COUNTDOWN TO SRI LANKA: the Final Countdown
Co-director of the Fairplay for All Foundation which runs Payatas FC, Kasiglahan FC and Kasiglahan Girls FC. Check out the charity and donate to support grassroots football providing education and homes for street kids: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fairplay-For-All-Foundation/163370857062294