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Friday, November 16, 2018
CEBU

Villaflor: That top-secret Mongolia match

Footnote

WHILE we were sleeping, the Philippine Azkals held a practice match against Mongolia at the PFF Training Camp in Carmona, Cavite last Tuesday. The closed-door encounter saw the Azkals win 3-1.

Fox Sports Asia carried the story but there was little information about the game itself. Perhaps to avoid getting scouted, Philippines vs. Mongolia was held pretty much under wraps that the only clue to what transpired was a Facebook post of the Mongolian Football Federation of their visit with a few photos.

In one of the photos, Azkals head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was seen posing with the Mongolian team, while in another, he was shaking hands with an MFF official. Another photo shows Stephan Schrock with Mongolian skipper Turgat Daginaa and match officials.

So, does this mean that Schrock will captain the Suzuki Cup squad that will see action against Singapore this Nov. 13 at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City? What’s clear, though, is that he seems to have recovered from an ankle injury he sustained during a club match a couple of months back.

While the training match signals Schrock’s return to the squad with what could be a bigger role, someone else also had a homecoming of sorts during the Nov. 6 scrimmage: ex-Azkals coach Michael Weiss.

Weiss is now Mongolia’s senior head coach, and if there’s someone who knows the Azkals technically and tactically more than anyone else on the sidelines that day, it was the German gaffer.

Weiss after all mentored the Azkals from 2011 to 2014, and at one point dreamed of taking the team into the top 100 of the FIFA World Ranking. (Now ranked 116, the Azkals are poised for a breakthrough.) But hounded with a string of poor results, Weiss had to be replaced by Thomas Dooley, who took the team to new heights (before losing his post to a no-show replacement).

After a forgettable stint with Romanian club football, Weiss now leads Mongolia, and in impressive fashion took the team to the Second Preliminary Round of the 2019 East Asia Football Federation Championship, a historic first for the country.

Like the Azkals, Mongolia is gearing up for battle this month, as it squares off with North Korea this Sunday, then with Chinese Taipei also on Nov. 13, and then with Hong Kong.

It would be interesting then what exchange transpired between Weiss and Eriksson during the top secret Mongolia-Philippines meeting. After a friendly in October wherein Mongolia lost 2-0 to Singapore, Weiss threw shade at the nation state, saying it will have trouble in the Suzuki Cup against the likes of Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines with whom they are grouped.

“The pace they will see from Indonesia and Philippines will be different and they will have problems,” Weiss, referring to Singapore, was quoted as saying during the post-match press conference. The German coach also took Singapore to task over their lack of creativity, adding that the goals “were gifts from our side.”


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