Manila: Philippines will take on Uzbekistan in Thursday’s 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifier without the services of key figures Stephan Schrock and Phil Younghusband.
The Azkals departed for Tashkent on Saturday without the pair, with Younghusband still struggling to overcome the knee problem that has seen him yet to play a game for club side Loyola Meralco Sparks this year, while Schrock has not fully recovered from a leg injury sustained while playing for Ceres La Salle in the AFC Cup earlier this month.
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Their absence has added to the problems of coach Thomas Dooley, who is already without suspended winger Misagh Bahadoran and midfielder Manny Ott, and who has seen veterans Rob Gier, Paul Mulders and Jerry Lucena retire from international football recently.
It has, however, presented Dooley with a chance to blood a handful of younger players, including OJ Porteria, Kenshiro Daniels and Dominic del Rosario and Philippines team manager Dan Palami sees this as a silver lining.
“It’s going to be very difficult but we can always see this as an opportunity for other players to step up,” he said, according to Inquirer.
The Azkals do still have plenty of experience to call upon, including foreign-based players such as Henan Jianye striker Javier Patino, Tractorsazi Tabriz midfielder Iain Ramsay and Walsall goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
Following their visit to the Bunyodkor Stadium, Philippines home return to host DPR Korea on March 29, where they will be hoping to hold off Bahrain to finish third and advance straight to the AFC Asian Cup qualifying third round.