Despite the cancellation of the 31st Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine Under-23 Azkals will still participate in the 2022 AFC Under-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The young Azkals squad was drawn in Group H, where it will face ASEAN neighbors Singapore and Timor Leste. It will also go up against continental powerhouse and defending champions South Korea.
The current fixture schedule takes place from October 23 to 31 in nearby Singapore.
For the Filipinos to qualify for the tournament proper, they will either need to finish top of Group H; or be one of the top four second-place finishers in the whole qualification round. Only players born on or after January 1, 1999, may line up in the fixtures.
There is still no word as to whom the Philippine Football Federation will send to compete on the country’s behalf.
Options include players like Lance Ocampo, Quincy Kammeraad, and Christian Rontini. The trio represented the Azkals Development Team in the Philippines Football League bubble competition last year under the tutelage of Azkals mentor Scott Cooper.
Additionally, recent senior call-ups Mark Winhoffer and Oliver Bias can also receive call-ups as long as their schedules allow.
However, any training bubble will still require approval from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. The country is still combating the effects of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Uzbekistan will host the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, slated to take place on June 1-19, 2022.
The Philippines will look to secure qualification into the final tournament for the first time in its history since its inception in 2013.
No Southeast Asian country has won the title. Vietnam came closest as a finalist in 2018.