By Olmin Leyba
A mix of veteran Azkals and under-23 players will carry the fight for the Philippines in the four-nation Long Teng Cup in Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei from Sept. 30 to Oct 4.
Skipper Aly Borromeo and seasoned players Chieffy Caligdong and Ian Araneta, the tourney’s top scorer with four goals last year, will banner the Phl side along with Azkals teammates Phil and James Younghusband, Angel Guirado, Roel Gener, Eduard Sacapaño, Misagh Bahadoran and Jason de Jong.
Joining them are mainstays of the U-23 pool currently training for the Southeast Asian Games, led by Fil-German goalkeeper Roland Mueller, Fil-Spanish rightback Carlos Alberto Martinez de Murga, Fil-Belgian midfielder Jeffrey Christiaens, and Fil-British siblings Mark and Matthew Hartmann.
U-23 bets Reymark Fernandez, Limuel Unabia, and Neckson Leonora and seniors Oliver Potschke and Moy Lexton complete the squad set to do battle against holders Hong Kong, host Chinese Taipei and Macau.
“I think we can consider the team we’ll be sending over to Long Teng Cup this year considerably stronger than the team that we had last time. So we’re looking at better chances, better opportunities,” said Azkals team manager Dan Palami during a joint training of the seniors and U-23 teams at the Rizal Stadium.
Last year, the Phl XI logged one win, one draw and one loss in the round-robin meet to finish third overall behind Hong Kong, then represented by its U-23 side, and the Taiwanese. Macau wound up fourth in that tourney.
“As far as management of the Philippine national team is concerned, the Long Teng Cup (participation) is geared towards allowing us to improve on our (Fifa world) rankings and at the same time, allowing the players to really have more international matches to play together,” he added.
The newbies, especially the U-23 booters, are being given exposure to test them in an international joust in preparation for the SEA Games in November, and future tournaments.
“The new players are quite promising, actually not just promising but very good additions to team and we are eager to watch them in the international competitions,” said Palami.
The Azkals will kick off their campaign against defending champion Hong Kong, to be represented by its full national team this time, on Sept. 30 at the Kaoshiung National Stadium. They will play the hosts on Oct. 2 then wind up their stint against Macau on Oct. 4. Published in The Philippine Star