Fil-Brit striker Phil Younghusband says he is not bothered by the absence of four players on March 15.
After a weeklong high-altitude training in Baguio City, the Azkals flew to Fukushima, Japan last March 7 for another week of acclimatization training before heading to Ulan Bator, the venue for their next game.The Azkals will face the Blue Wolves in the next leg of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup in Mongolia on March 15. “We head straight to Mongolia on the 13th but we’re training every day now so were very prepared and we’re confident we will win the game,” shares Phil Younghusband.
Despite clinching a 2-0 victory over the Blue Wolves in their first match at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City last February 9, there are still talks about how the harsh weather will affect the Azkals’ game, despite their strong showing on home turf. Phil said this is not a big factor even for his local teammates who are only used to playing in tropical weather.
The 23-year-old striker said any talks about basing the outcome of their game on weather is just pure speculation. “I think they’re exaggerating. The cold is easy to play in if you’re running around. I feel more sorry for those who are watching the game because when you’re sitting down and not moving, then you get cold. But when you’re playing and running around it’s actually easy to do,” he shared.
The Azkals have also adapted to their new playing conditions with a modified uniform which will be beneficial for them in Ulan Bator, where the temperature this month has been said to drop to as low as -2 and -15 degrees Celsius. The team will also be equipped with thermal wear, gloves, scarves, and headgear to protect them from the cold, on and off the field.
Phil also said the Azkals remain confident despite the absence of some overseas players including starting goalkeeper Neil Etheridge. “Four of our players won't be able to make it. Neil Etheridge, Rob Gier, Simon and Chris Greatwich. They won’t be coming, but I guess in Mongolia we have substitutes and reserves who are good enough to take their place and fill in when needed so were still confident even without those strong players missing,” he said.
The Fil-Brit hunk said that it is Filipino pride and spirit that has brought the Azkals this far and will hopefully make them into a consistently successful team. “We are a team and my teammates are very supportive. We are all very close. Whether we have pure Filipino blood or half-Filipino blood, we are all very close and supportive of each other and everyone understands the situation. Our teammates are good people and they’re my friends. There’s no jealousy. There’s no arguments or quarrels,” he said reassuringly.
Phil also has high hopes that the Azkals will perform well this year in order to have a good chance at the World Cup Qualifiers in June. “I really hope we do well.. We have to win a lot of games to get to the actual World Cup. Obviously we’ll have to play teams like Japan and South Korea who have been football countries for a long, long time and they have a lot of good players. I think it will take time but eventually it will happen,” he said.