The Philippines’ national football team goalkeeper Neil Etheridge will sit out the country’s first two 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying games against Syria and Guam with a hamstring injury.
“He will probably be ready for the home game against China on October 15,” said head coach Scott Cooper on Tuesday.
Etheridge had ruled himself out of the two matches after hurting his hamstring while playing for Cardiff City in their season opener against Wigan Athletic in the English Championship over the weekend, and will be sidelined for at least six weeks, according to Cooper.
However, even without the country’s most decorated footballer, who last season became the first Southeast Asian to play in the English Premier League, Cooper is still confident in his squad’s depth.
“One thing we are blessed with here is serious depth in goalkeeping talent,” he noted.
Danish-born goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard, 28, will continue to deputise for Etheridge, as he did in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.
Aside from Etheridge, brothers Phil and James Younghusband – who have not seen any football action since the Asian Cup – appear unlikely to be selected for the 23-man lineup for the first two qualifiers.
“Both of them are looking to get back into the game. But we have to be realistic about current form and fitness,” said Cooper about the Younghusbands, both of whom are currently without a professional club.
The Philippines’ World Cup Group A qualifying matches begin on September 5 against Syria at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod in Central Philippines, followed by their first away game against Guam on September 10.
Also in Group A are China and the Maldives.
The team must finish first in the group or become one of the best four runners-up in the second round of qualifiers to secure qualification to the next round.