With the Under 23s getting ready for the SEA games in November, the Philippines look ahead to the future of football in the country. As the men’s national side are improving at each competition Manager Dan Palami and Coach Michael Weiss look to develop the youth to sustain their growth. The success of any side is built on acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of players and developing a strategy to complement this. Spain, for example, recognised that their players weren’t the most physical and couldn’t compete as well in the air. However, realising that their shorter speedier players were more technical and agile they developed a strategy of possession-football, short passing controlling the game. What became known as tika taka has conquered the world through Barcelona and Spain, Barcelona winning La Liga and the Champions League while Spain are the reigning World Cup and Euro Cup champions. The Philippines face similar issues; like Spain the lack of height and strength is compensated for by speed and skill, embodied in players like Chieffy Caligdong, Ian Araneta and the recently retired Yanti Barsales.
This is one of the reasons the Azkals have been a little inconsistent in friendlies lately, most recently losing 4-3 to the UFL All Stars. Fielding a new 4-3-3 formation the team is building its own style. Patience is the key as Spain took several heartbreaking losses in the World Cup and the Euro Cup, under-performing in both until blossoming to win the Euro Cup in 2008 and then the World Cup in 2010. Now dominating the world they are the benchmark and each team must develop their own strategies to complement their best attributes and to counter the strategies of others.
In this manner several Azkals who frequently feature in the full team have been switched instead to the Under 23s to build both teams together. Simon Greatwich is perhaps the most notable example, the midfielder a frequent starter in the full National team. However based on this and what’s been happening in the rumour mill here is a predicted selection for the U23 team to play in the upcoming SEA games:
Jason de Jong, Simon Greatwich, Christopher Camcam, Islam Ahmed, Neil Patrick Ignacio, Patrick Hinrichsen, Mark Drinkuth, Paolo Pascual, Yannick Tuason, Mario Oj Clarino, Mark Ferrer, Patrick Deyto, James Rochlitz, Alwin, David Basa, Deo Sigunial, Miguel Mantelibano, Nickson Leonora, Renante Bayquin, Francis Gustillo, Romeo Martinez, Vincent Braga, Wilson Muñoz, Denver Vergara, Joshua Beloya, Joven Bedic, Aldrin Dolino, Jake Morallo, Gino Palomo, Lemuel Unabia, Jurex Replentes, Jimmy Malaloan, Jerry Barbaso, Jinggoy Valmayor
With seven players coming from Iloilo, eight from NOFA and nine from the National Capital Region the recent Under 23 tournament seems to have been successful in scouting players. Despite some of the problems faced during the tournament itself at least this is one positive which alone makes such tournaments well worthwhile. Selected here are thirty-four players, though the competition allows thirty-five. It’s possible that the Azkals will forfeit one place due to the strength of the other players and so fans are left to anticipate the games in the hopes that the younger Azkals can fight hard and even win a medal in Indonesia in the 26th SEA games.