PHL U23 Azkals begin Asian Cup Qualifiers campaign

THE Philippine Under-23 men’s national football team begins its campaign in the 2022 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers on Monday in Singapore. — PHILIPPINE FOOTBALL FEDERATION

THE Philippine Under-23 (U23) men’s national football team begins its campaign in the 2022 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup Qualifiers on Monday in Singapore.

Playing in Group H of the qualification phase, the U23 Azkals seek to top their grouping for automatic qualification for the Asian Cup, or be among the top runners-up in group play for possible qualification.

Qualification format has the 11 group winners and the four best runners-up qualifying for the Asian Cup, happening in Uzbekistan next year.

In their group, the U23 Azkals will play Korea Republic on Monday at 5 p.m., followed by host Singapore on Oct. 28 (8 p.m.) and Timor-Leste on Oct. 31 (5 p.m.). Venue for all the matches is the Jalan Besar Stadium.

The 23-man Philippine team is composed of Quincy Kammeraad, Enrico Mangaoang and Jessie Semblante (goalkeepers), and defenders Justin Baas, Paolo Nicola Perez, Christian Rontini and David Kevin Setters.

Also in the team are midfielders Oliver Bias, Jethro Borlongan, Dennis Chung, Yrick Gallantes, Mandy Lloyd Ignacio, Oskari Johannes Kekkonen, Jacob Francis Maniti, Sandro Miguel Reyes, Nathan Rilloraza, Mark Francis Swainston, Shanden Vergara and Mark Winhoffer, and forwards Kieran Hayes, Miguel Antonio Mendoza, Marcel Ivan Ouano, and Jens Sebastian Rasmussen.

The team is coached by Scott Cooper with Dan Palami as team manager.

“We’re here (Singapore) and we’re ready,” said Mr. Cooper in a virtual press conference organized by the Philippine Football Federation on Friday.

“We’ve brought in the best available players at this time from the domestic league and those playing outside of the Philippines. It’s a culmination of long scouting and assessing them. Everyone’s Filipino and everybody is dedicated,” he added.

Mr. Cooper further said that they had a good camp in Qatar, but admitted that a tall order awaits them come tournament time.

Prior to going to Doha for the final stages of the training camp, the team also conducted a closed-circuit training bubble last September at the Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa, Batangas, under strict monitoring and adhering to existing health and safety protocols.

The matches of U23 Azkals can be seen live over the Premier Football Channel (SkyCable and Cignal TV) and streamed over TapGo. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo

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