It’s game day!

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Saturday, April 26, 2014


VETERAN Anton del Rosario is raring to go and lead a youngster-laden Philippine team to victory against Malaysia in a friendly tonight at the Cebu City Sports Center.

The 32-year-old del Rosario was named as the skipper of an Azkals squad that is composed mostly of young players and he is relishing his new role as the leader of the national team that he has been a part of for 10 years.

“It’s an honor to be called up as captain. I have big shoes to fill because Rob (Gier) is a great captain,” del Rosario said yesterday in a press conference at the Cebu Parklane International Hotel.

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“I can’t wait and go out there and lead the team.” Del Rosario, who plays for Kaya FC in the United Football League, is excited to see action for the Azkals for the first time in Cebu City, which is also known for having some of the most passionate fans.

“It’s my first time to play here. I’m looking forward to it. I have never played in front of the Cebuanos. It’s a great experience and I can’t wait to go out there and play on that field,” he said.

Thomas Dooley wants his team to show a good performance in his first home game as the new coach. It is also the team’s last friendly before going
to Maldives for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup next month.

“It is the best team available. Is it good enough to beat Malaysia? I don’t know. With some of our players suffering injuries and not released by their clubs, it is the second line-up’s chance to show that they deserve to be on the field,” he said. Dooley, however, believes that Jerry Lucena and Martin Steuble, who play professionally for European clubs, should be a huge boost in sharing with del Rosario leadership duties.

“I’m happy to have to have two experienced players to help lead the team. It’s not necessary to wear a captain’s armband in leading a team. Martin and Jerry are those type of players, he said.

The Philippines and Malaysia have met twice in the past two years, and the last encounter ended in a scoreless draw in Malaysia last March 1.

“I’m looking at a good result. At the end of the day, it is a friendly and the most important thing is the team builds up smoothly for the next assignment,” said Malaysia coach Kim Swee Datuk Ong.

Like the Azkals, the Tigers are also preparing for a tournament, the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup later this year.

“The most important thing is the combination of players that are new with the team. I am hoping we can gel and look forward to the AFF Suzuki Cup,” said Maylasia team captain Mohamad Aidil Zafuan Abd Radzak. (EKA)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 27, 2014.

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