Bangkok United’s Falkesgaard to battle Etheridge for Azkals No. 1 spot

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By Kelvin Leong

Michael Falkesgaard is ready for the battle with Cardiff City’s Neil Etheridge to claim the No. 1 jersey for the Philippines national team.

After a good start to life in the Thai League with Bangkok United, former Denmark U-20 goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard got the call he and his family have been waiting for all his life.

Born to a Filipino mother and a Danish father, the 26-year-old uprooted from Denmark to ply his trade in Southeast Asia for the first time this season with Mano Polking’s side in Thailand.

While his priority was to get more playing time after a stop-start career with Brondby IF, FC Midtjylland and Odense Boldklub in the Danish Superliga, Falkesgaard felt that a move to the region will get him one step closer to the ultimate dream of donning the Azkals jersey.

That dream became a reality when Bangkok United announced on their Facebook page last week that their numero uno has been included in Thomas Dooley’s team roster for the upcoming matches against Fiji and Tajikistan on March 22 and 27 respectively.

The Azkals are seeking to qualify for their first-ever Asian Cup and need a draw from the final Group F game against Tajikistan to make that happen.

“When the news filtered through to me about my call-up to the national team, one of my first calls was to my parents back in Denmark,” Falkesgaard revealed to FOX Sports Asia.

“The natural reaction was that they were super excited, especially my mum who was very, very proud.

“She immediately told me on the phone that she wants to go to the games in Manila but it will be difficult with her job schedule back home.”

While the excitement has yet to die down, Falkesgaard knows he is in for a tough battle with the Azkals’ undisputed king between the sticks, Neil Etheridge who has been in sensational form for Cardiff City in the English Championship this season.

With more than 15 clean sheets for the Bluebirds in the 2017/18 campaign, Etheridge has helped Neil Warnock’s charges to second spot, ready to claim promotion and join the big boys in the Premier League.

There will be too much at stake in the upcoming Asian Cup qualifier against Tajikistan, and Etheridge is likely to start in goal, but that has not dampened Falkesgaard’s determination to win his first cap.

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He added: “I will always battle for the number one spot and try to prove I’m the best goalkeeper no matter who I’m up against.

“But Neil has been a huge pillar for the national team for a long time and is undoubtedly the number one choice for the Philippines.

“His club form for Cardiff has been superb and I am rooting for him and the club to win promotion to the Premier League.

“Having said that, you need quality and competition in every position in a team and that’s what I aim to provide when I join up with the national squad.

“I’m also excited to meet the rest of the Azkals teammates along with experiencing the amazing fanatic support that I’ve seen on videos of the fans.

“At the end of the day, we are all playing for the same thing and that is to do our country proud. I know Azkals are one win from making history so I’ll do whatever I can to help us get there together.”

The likelihood of Falkesgaard taking to the field at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium for the crucial Asian Cup qualifier against Tajikistan will be slim but Dooley may be tempted to give the Bangkok Angel his first taste of international football action in the friendly against Fiji just days before.