(Azkals) Weiss needs more time to finalize team

source: Bong Pedralvez | malaya.com.ph

After supervising the last eight days of the Azkals’ training camp-cum-tryouts, national coach Michael Weiss is not yet ready to sift the wheat from the chaff.

"We are still evaluating the new players trying out, although I haven’t seen spectacular stuff," the 44-year-old mentor said after practice at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium that lasted until early evening last Wednesday. "I cannot single out anyone so far."

Among those bidding to gain slots in the team are Filipino-British Chad Gould and Fil-Aussie Leigh Gunn, who previously saw action for the national team under separate coaches, plus Fil-Ams James Rochilitz and Nathaniel Burkey.

"No decision on them yet. I have to see them play in a match," the German mentor said of the hopefuls.

"The younger ones are more interesting," added Weiss, referring to 16-year-old Rochilitz and Burkey.

"He (Rochilitz) may be not as good as some of our present senior players, but for his age he is good in the under-20," he said.

Weiss was also impressed by Burkey, a striker, "but he is a bit shy and if you are shy, you won’t win in football."

As part of the weeding out process, the aspirants played five-a-side against the regulars in close quarters under time pressure for the coaches "to see their skills and determine how they will react in situations when pressed."

The Sydney-born Gunn, who recently turned 30 and last played for the nationals during the 2006 Asian Challenge Cup group qualifiers in Bangladesh under coach Aris Caslib, said he’s optimistic of making the squad.

"It was just like old times and I know half of the guys on team," Gunn, a forward, said. "I have to play the role the German coach wants me to play, that’s all. I’m very hopeful."

Aware of the high stakes involved in the Asian World Cup opening round qualifying series against Sri Lanka, Weiss reiterated he would only get the best players for the Azkals, who kick off the home-and-away qualifiers against the Sri Lankans in Colombo on June 29.

"As I have said before, only the quality players who can help us can make it," Weiss said. "Mediocre ones we have enough."

He also issued an appeal to the mainstays to devote more time to the squad, noting the Younghusband siblings, Phil and James, who saw action in a club tournament last week, showed up for practice for the first time only at the Rizal stadium last Monday.

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