Local league mainstays, young guns lead Azkals pool

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FILE–Philippine Azkals in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. –AZKALS PHOTO

Youngsters and local-based mainstays dominated the list of players called up by the Philippine Azkals to take part in a training camp for next month’s Asean Football Federation (AFF) Mitsubishi Electric Cup.

Azkals Development Team (ADT) goalkeeper Julian Schwarzer and Canadian-based Michael Baldisimo were among those who received invitations from the Azkals management for the camp which starts Nov. 21.

Schwarzer is the son of former Australia international Mark Schwarzer, who played for Fulham in the English Premier League from 2008 to 2013. He has made a strong impression on the domestic front for ADT in the Philippines Football League.

Baldisimo, playing the midfield position, is currently with the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer. He was also invited in last year’s AFF camp but begged off due to an injury.

The rest are either those who played in recent age-group competitions on the international scene or among the standouts for their respective PFL clubs as the Azkals hope to bounce back from last year’s campaign.

Still no coach

The Azkals failed to make the semifinals of the tournament—previously known as the AFF Suzuki Cup for sponsorship reasons—for only the second time since 2010’s “Miracle in Hanoi,” when they placed third in Group A behind eventual champion Thailand and semifinalist Singapore.

No coach has yet to be named for the biggest tournament in Southeast Asia, which will pit the Philippines against reigning holder Thailand, runnerup Indonesia, Cambodia and late qualifier Brunei in a bid to secure a top two finish and a semifinal berth in Group A.

The home-and-away setup will return for this year’s edition, which begins Dec. 20 with the Azkals traveling to Phnom Penh to face Cambodia. They’ll host Brunei on Dec. 23 before playing an away game against Thailand on Dec. 26 and facing Indonesia in a home match on Jan. 2.

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