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Azkals coach may exclude Younghusbands in qualifiers

PHILIPPINE Azkals coach Scott Cooper admitted that it would be hard for him to include brothers Phil and James Younghusband for next month’s start of the FIFA World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers due to months of inactivity.

The Younghusbands, however, were included in the 39-man list for the first two matches against Syria and Guam despite being out of competitive football since the Azkals’ campaign in the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates last January.

James Younghusband and Phil Younghusband. (Photo courtesy of Azkals.com)
James Younghusband and Phil Younghusband. (Photo courtesy of Azkals.com)

Both are also not suiting up for any club in the Philippines Football League or overseas after the Davao Aguilas late last year.

“Neither of them is playing at a club right now, so I think it’s fair to say that it’s difficult for them to be selected,” Cooper said in Tuesday’s PSA Forum at Amelie Hotel in Manila.

But Cooper stressed that several factors could convince him to tap both players for the September window.

“Both of them are eager to get back in the game so while they’re not retired, the door is always open for them,” he said. “But at the same time, we have to be realistic about current form, fitness and things like that.”

Phil is the country’s all-time leading scorer with 52 goals while James has been a key figure himself with his play in midfield.

They led the Azkals to four AFF Suzuki Cup semifinal appearances, a runner-up finish in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup and the historic berth in the Asian Cup earlier this year.

That is why Cooper believes their inclusion to the pool is a no-brainer.

“We would be foolish not to add players with that experience on the list,” Cooper said.  “Who knows, they may sign for a club. I know there’s interest in both of those players so if they sign for a club, the match fitness comes back and they’re playing well, then they’ll be open for selection.” (JONAS TERRADO)

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