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Dec 7, 2012

Football: Philippines coach Weiss remains cautious

SINGAPORE: Michael Weiss wants to take the Philippines to the Asian Cup finals in 2015 but, for now, the German coach's immediate task is to get the better of Singapore when the two teams meet on Saturday in their ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup semi-final first leg clash at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

The Azkals met the Lions twice in friendlies this year and won on both occasions and, even though 47-year-old Weiss would love to repeat that and take the Philippines to their first final of the biennial tournament, he remains cautious.

"Although the wins have given us confidence, the fact remains that friendlies are not the true reflection of a team's ability," he said in a phone interview with TODAY.

"Singapore are always a contender in the tournament. Sure, they didn't do too well at the last tournament two years ago, but they are two-time champions, and look at them now.

"They will have experienced players like (Aleksandar) Duric, (Fahrudin) Mustafic and (Daniel) Bennett to fall back on, while the likes of Shahril (Ishak) and Baihakki (Khaizan) have definitely matured."

But Weiss also feels that the battle in the midfield during the semi-finals will decide the outcome.

"Raddy (Avramovic) talked about the physical battle and the Philippines' style of play. I agree with him," he said. "We are not the fleetest of teams but we have the muscle to compete in midfield. That's where the battle will be fought and won.

Weiss - who has overseen the Azkals' rise up the FIFA rankings to 143 since he took charge in 2011 - also admits that his side have become a force in South-east Asia, with the inclusion of a long list of naturalised citizens who have been plying their trade in European leagues.

Even without 26-year-old Stephan Schrock, who has not been released by Bundesliga side Hoffenheim for this competition, he can still call upon Jerry Lucena of Danish club Esbjerg, Dennis Cagara (Karlsruher FC), Paul Mulders (ADO Den Haag), Juan Guirado (Racing Lermeno) and Netherlands-born Jason De Jong (former NAC Breda, now Stallion FC).



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