The Philippines U22 squad’s opener in the Copa Paulino Alcantara served as a glimpse of what is in store for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) campaign this late November.
Speaking to the media after getting a 1-0 win in their first assignment against Green Archers United and finding themselves as early leaders in Group A, Azkals team manager Dan Palami shared his thoughts on the considerable number of spectators for the cup match that was held last October 27 in Aboitiz Pitch.
“I’m glad the fans came over and I’m happy that they got their preview of what is to come (this SEA Games).”
However, Palami was quick to point out that the list of players comprising the squad for the cup is not yet a confirmation that it will be a hundred percent the same come the biennial meet.
“I mean it’s not the final lineup yet. We’ll trim (the list) down to 20. We still have two players coming from the senior team (which will fill the slots for) the over-age players,” shared the Azkals’ boss.
During their opener last weekend, it was to note that the team expects additional players (at least two more) overseas-based who coming with the hopes of playing a part in the cup.
“Some of the players who are part of this (Copa Alcantara) team are yet to arrive, like Marco Casambre (of Thai club Chainat Hornbill) and Christian Rontini (of Italy’s Sangiovannese 1927).”
With a big pool of talents being considered for the final cut in the SEA Games, Dan Palami is expecting an intense battle for spots from the players.
“I think everybody can see that (each player) wants to play, that is why they are working hard to be part of the team,” Palami added further.
Under-22 assistant coach Ernest Nierras also stated on a separate interview that other players are also still in consideration for the final SEA Games squad, confirming that changes can still occur and nothing is guaranteed when it comes to the spots.
One particular player who has been a constant participant in the junior squad, but is not in the U22 lineup this Copa Alcantara is Ceres-Negros’ Dylan De Bruycker.
“(De Bruycker) wasn’t released by Ceres for this competition. That’s the only reason.”
Coach Nierras further informed that aside from De Bruycker, more players – overseas-based – are still in the process of being considered for the SEA Games squad who were not able to be part of the Copa simply because of their commitments with their respective clubs.
“There are still five players (based overseas) who are not here (that are being eyed).
“We are gonna field the best team that we can put together (for the Southeast Asian Games).”
The Azkals U22 are about to face their sternest test yet in their 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara participation as they face undefeated league champions Ceres-Negros who are aiming to bounce back from their lacklustre draw in their cup opener against Mendiola FC. Match kicks off at 4PM in Binan Football Stadium.
Meanwhile Mendiola FC and Green Archers continue their cup campaign as they face off in Aboitiz pitch followed by Philippine Air Force and Stallion Laguna in an evening kickoff on the same venue.
Photo credit: The Azkals