Injured goalkeeper Neil Etheridge set to miss opening matches of 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Gulf Cup draw takes place with absentees Bahrain, Saudi and UAE skipping tournament

Philippines have suffered a setback in the form of an injury to goalkeeper Neil Etheridge as they prepare for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers starting next month.

The Azkals are scheduled to face Syria and Guam on September 5 and 10 respectively in Group A of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers second round. They also have China PR and Maldives as opponents in the group.

But the news has come in that Cardiff City goalkeeper Etheridge, who would have been Philippines head coach Scott Cooper’s first choice to guard their goal, will have to watch from the sidelines his nation’s two opening matches in the World Cup Qualifiers.

29-year-old Etheridge suffered a hamstring injury during his club’s Championship match against Wigan Athletic this weekend and he has now been prescribed six to eight weeks of no football as he recuperates from the injury.

“He’ll probably be ready for the home game against China on [October 15],” Azkals head coach Cooper was quoted as saying by Rappler.

Etheridge had also missed the AFC Asian Cup 2019 and AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 for Philippines due to club commitments during which Bangkok United custodian Michael Falkesgaard filled in for the Premier League goalkeeper.

Meanwhile, Cooper has reportedly shortlisted 39 players for Philippines’ World Cup Qualifiers campaign which includes several new overseas-based players, as reported earlier.

These include goalkeeper Bernd Schipmann from Germany, Michael Kempter from Switzerland, Raphael Obermair from Austria, Jesse Curran from Scotland and Elias Mordal from Norway, according to the Inquirer.

According to the report, 16 out of the 39 players set to be registered for the qualification campaign are plying their trade in the Thai League.