THE `future’ of Philippine football faces yet another severe test as the national Under-16 boys’ squad takes part in the Asian Football Confederation Championship qualifiers kicking off on Wednesday in Malaysia.
Composed of some of the finest teenage booters from Metro Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Cebu, Oroquieta, Dumaguete, Masbate, Davao and Bukidnon, and one from the US, the U-16 Azkals will be up against tough competition in Group J, where they are bracketed with Japan, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
National coach Anto Gonzales is counting on striker Jeremiah “JB” Borlongan, along with midfielders Mark Winhoffer and Darius Diamante, and defender Josh Miller to lead the squad.
John Abraham, Rexon Capellan, Marco Casambre, Brian Haim, Chrisitian Lapas, Kintaro Miyagi are the rest of the defenders, while Jovan Marfiga, Sebastian Patangan, Javier Romero-Salas, Ray Sanciangco are the midfielders.
Michael Asong, Harel Dayan, and Jose Yared are the goalkeepers, while forwards Dimitri Limbo and Vincent Lovitos complete the 19-man roster.
“I think we have a good future for Philippine football within this team,” said Gonzales, whose squad last competed in the Asean Football Federation U-16 Championship last month in Myanmar where they won one of four games.
Thomas Roy, who came over from Germany to become a grassroots development consultant and serve as the team’s technical official, liked what he saw from his initial observations.
“I was surprised because I saw a lot of very good players,” the German said. “They are technically and tactically good.”
The Filipino booters flew to Kuala Lumpur on Monday and will have no less than Japan as their first opponent on Wednesday, followed by Indonesia on Friday, before ending their group stage campaign against Vietnam on Sunday.
“Japan is levels ahead in terms of development. I told the boys let’s just play the best possible way you can and show the other countries that we can play good football also and not just parking the bus and just clearing the ball,” Gonzales said.
“We want to play possession and keep the ball and go for the attack when the opportunity comes. That’s gonna be the approach against Japan,” he added.