Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Mariano Araneta expects Cardiff City goalkeeper Neil Etheridge to make only one appearance for the Azkals at the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
Araneta revealed this during an interview with the Radyo Pilipinas 2 recently as he said that the 28-year-old goalkeeper’s involvement in the AFC Asian Cup will be limited due to club commitments when Philippines make their debut in the continental competition this January.
“We know the importance of Neil with Cardiff City. So, he will play for the Azkals in the first game of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 and then go back to play with Cardiff,” former international Araneta told the radio show Football Connection.
If the PFF president’s words are true, Etheridge will only guard the goal for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side for their AFC Asian Cup opener against Korea Republic on January 7.
Thank you to all the supporters travelling in these conditions. Cheering and making themselves heard the whole game, No matter the result, no matter the weather we stick together! #cityasone #bluebirds #cardiffcityfc #football #goalkeeper #premierleague pic.twitter.com/byZkGZyCNa
— Neil Etheridge (@Neil38Etheridge) December 15, 2018
He will be unavailable for Azkals’ group games against China on January 11 and the Kyrgyz Republic on January 16 as well as the knockout stages if the Philippines manage to get out of the strong group they are in.
Cardiff City will play Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on January 1 before facing Gillingham in the FA Cup on January 5. The Bluebirds will then play Huddersfield Town in the league on January 12.
Etheridge also played a bit part role as Philippines reached the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018. The former Fulham and Charlton Athletic custodian only played the Azkals’ opening match in the tournament — a 1-0 win over Singapore at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod.
Bangkok United shot-stopper Michael Falkesgaard stepped into Etheridge’s boots during the AFF Suzuki Cup and is expected to do the same if the star custodian returns to his Premier League club in the middle of the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
Maraming salamat to all our people for supporting us and cheering us on throughout the @affsuzukicup. You all have been truly amazing and I hope that you will be there once again as our 12th man in the @afcasiancup #LabanPilipinas 🇵🇭🙏🏼
— Michael Falkesgaard (@mfalkesgaard1) December 6, 2018
But Falkesgaard himself is recovering from an injury he suffered during the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 semifinal first leg which made him sit out the second leg against Vietnam.
Patrick Deyto who deputised for Falkesgaard that night has already been ruled out of the AFC Asian Cup with an injury. It looks like goalkeeping is going to a major area of concern for Eriksson as the Azkals head to Asia’s premier football competition.