By Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA—Veterans Aly Borromeo and Chieffy Caligdong will lead the new-look Philippine Azkals when they vie in the Long Teng Cup in Kaohsiung, Taiwan from September 28 to October 4.
Brothers Phil and James Younghusband are also in the side, which will unveil new players in Filipino-British Mark Hartmann, Fil-Belgian Jeff Christiaens, Fil-Spanish Carli de Murga and Fil-German goalkeeper Roland Muller and local defenders Lemuel Unabia, Reymark Fernandez and Nickson Leonora.
The newcomers form the core of the Under-23 squad for the Southeast Asian Games slated in November in Indonesia.
The Azkals, who finished third last year, kick off their campaign against Hong Kong on Sept. 30, before facing Chinese-Taipei on October 2 and Macau on October 4.
Azkals manager Dan Palami believes they have assembled a stronger squad this time for the four-nation tournament, despite the presence of young players.
“I think we can consider that the team we will be sending in the Long Teng considerably stronger,” said Palami.
Lexton Moy, a US-raised midfielder, and Fil-German defender Oliver Poetschke have also been included in the 20-man roster, along with regulars Angel Guirado, Jason de Jong, Misagh Bahadoran, Roel Gener, Ian Araneta and Eduard Sacapano and the returning Matthew Hartmann.
“The Long Teng Cup is geared towards allowing us to improve on our rankings and at the same time allow our new players to have more international matches to play together,” said Palami.
The Azkals dropped three places in the latest Fifa rankings, slipping to No. 165.
The Azkals actually prepared for their Suzuki Cup campaign last year by seeing action in the Long Teng Cup, where they lost to Hong Kong (2-4) tied Chinese-Taipei (1-1) and crushed Macau (5-0).
“We have come full circle and and we will see how far we will go this time,” said Palami. “The new players are very promising. They are very good additions to the team and we’re eager to watch them in the international competition.”