After first loss, Weiss still searching for right Azkals mix

Santi Rublico (No. 18), a U19 player for Atletico Madrid, nearly delivered a goal for the Azkals. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Finding the right balance in terms of selecting youngsters and veterans is something coach Michael Weiss continues to do after the initial match of the Philippine Azkals in the World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers.

As many were pleased with how young Santi Rublico performed despite the Azkals’ 2-0 defeat at the hands Vietnam last Thursday at Rizal Memorial Stadium, there are still questions among fans as to why Stephen Schrock was on the team for the initial window of the Asian Qualifiers.

“We have to find the balance, introducing new players, but they have to be backed up by old players with experience. This is the way we are moving forward,” Weiss said.

The Azkals wrap up the first part of the qualifiers on Tuesday against Indonesia, still at the Rizal pitch, with expectations of Weiss still putting a mixture of young and old.

Against Vietnam, the Azkals nearly squeezed out tie late in the match with Rublico attempting an equalizer off a long ball, but his shot went wide and the golden chance was wasted.

But Rublico has been among the impressive young blood on the Azkals side, given his pedigree of being a part of Atletico Madrid’s U-19 side. Rublico, born in Spain to Filipino parents, is only 18 years old, and his quality primarily as a defender is what Weiss hopes to maximize.

“Hopefully, we can find more Santi Rublicos and make the team stronger with younger persons,” Weiss said. “We can’t deny the fact that we’re in an aging process [and] we need to rejuvenate.”

Rublico’s near score came off a long ball from Schrock, who came on in the 68th minute much to the delight of the audience. The 37-year-old had made at least 60 caps for flag and country.

Other fans, however, were quick to question the inclusion of the seasoned midfielder, who had initially retired from international duty in January but has made on and off returns in an Azkals shirt.

Weiss, however, insists that Schrock can still contribute at such level over other snubs that the German-born coach mentioned, like Jarvey Gayoso and Sandro Reyes. INQ

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