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Philippine football comes alive in June stints

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The Philippines will be well-represented in two tournaments set to be staged next month as the Philippine Football Federation named two squads that will compete in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers where two of the eight games in the second round will be played.

The regional tournament will be held in Singapore, the hosts of this year’s games. The Philippines are grouped with Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and last but not the least, Singapore. In this tournament, the Philippines will be bannered by outstanding young talent, with most having featured in the collegiate football scene and in the United Football League (UFL). Sixty-five percent (65%) of the team is composed of the players who have already played for the qualifiers of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 tournament in Bangkok two months ago. The team trained last week in Sydney, Australia in preparation for the SEA Games football tournament.

They are Shirmar Felongco, Nate Alquiros and Fitch Arboleda of Stallion, Ian Clarino, Jun Badelic, Richard Talaroc, Paolo Salenga, and Paolo Bugas, of Global, Ronnie Aguisanda and Kennedy Uzoka of Green Archers United, Dominic del Rosario of Kaya, Jinggoy Valmayor, Daniel Gadia, Patxi Santos, and Ace Villanueva of Pachanga-Diliman, Arnel Amita of Manila Jeepney, Connor Tacagni and Neil Dorimon of Mendiola FC 1991, Jamie Cheng, and Mark Besana. The team will be under the tutelage of Marlon Maro, who will be assisted by Noel Marcaida. They will open their campaign against Singapore on Monday, June 1.

Ten days after that, the Azkals take center stage as they will kick-off their bid for a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which also serves as a determinant for the upcoming 2019 Asian Cup. Thomas Dooley will mentor the side that is led by regulars Phil Younghusband, Misagh Bahadoran, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, and Jerry Lucena. Also in the lineup are local-based players Daisuke Sato, Amani Aguinaldo, Mark Hartmann, Manny Ott, Kenshiro Daniels, Simone Rota, Martin Steuble, Patrick Reichelt, Dennis Villanueva, Patrick Deyto, and Tomas Trigo.

The team will also be boosted by the return of Stephan Schrock, Neil Etheridge, and Javier Patino—all of whom have been absent in recent tournaments the Philippines have participated. Most of them are familiar names but a new batch of players will also reinvigorate the squad come their first game. Kevin Ingreso, Iain Ramsey, Stephan Palla, and Luke Woodland are all young players who ply their trade overseas. The cohesion of the squad will be tested on the second Thursday of June. Bahrain, the country’s most recent adversaries, will be visiting the Azkals to open the Road to Russia. Five days later, the Filipinos will travel to the Middle East to play against Yemen. Uzbekistan and North Korea are the other opponents the Philippines will face in Group H.

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