By Karlo Sacamos
SOME of the Philippines’ finest homegrown footballers team up to vie for honors in the Asean Football Federation Under-16 Championship kicking off on Tuesday in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.
Twenty teenagers were picked from Metro Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Cebu, Oroquieta, Dumaguete, Masbate, and Bukidnon, and one from the US to form the Little Azkals.
Striker Jeremiah “JB” Borlongan is expected to lead the squad, along with midfielders Mark Winhoffer and Darius Diamante, and defender Josh Miller — players whom head coach Anto Gonzales believes could make it to the Azkals’ roster in the future.
Michael Asong, Marco Casambre, Harel Dayan, Jed Delariarte, Major Ebarle, Brian Haim, Dimitri Limbo, Jovan Marfiga, Chester Pabualan, Ivan Palmero, Sebastian Patangan, John Saldivar, James Sambalod, Ray Sanciangco, and Orlan Togores complete the roster.
The Little Azkals’ first assignment is Malaysia on Wednesday. The Filipinos then take on Indonesia on Friday, Singapore on Sunday, and Laos next Tuesday.
Group A is made up of the host country, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, and newcomer Australia.
The top two teams from each group advance to the crossover semifinals, beginning August 31.
The core of the squad last participated in the Fam-Frenz Asean Championship in June, finishing fifth among six teams in Group B with three victories in 10 games.
Gonzales will be assisted by Jose Maria Aberasturi, with Anthony Albao as goalkeeping coach. Maja Año (team coordinator) and Audrey Mariano (physiotherapist) complete the team staff.