THE Philippines formally opens its campaign in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games four days before the opening rites as the men's Under-22 and women's seniors football teams battle separate rivals on Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur.
The men's Under-22 football team battles Cambodia on Tuesday at the Selayang Stadium, while the Malditas take on host Malaysia at the Uitm Shah Alam Stadium. Both matches start at 8:45 p.m., ushering in the Filipinos' bid in the biennial tournament.
The Philippine men's team is bracketed in Group B along with Southeast Asian powerhouse and defending champion Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, along with Timor Leste.
Head coach Marlon Maro said the target of the Philippine men's football team is to reach the semifinals, which is attainable by winning three matches out of the six-nation field in Group B.
Maro also added this year's Philippine team is better than two years ago in Singapore based on its preparation.
"Compared to the last SEA Games, this team is well-prepared," said Maro.
The team will be led by team captain Ian Clarino of University of the Philippines, UAAP Season 79 MVP Jarvey Gayoso of Ateneo, UAAP Season 78 MVP Daniel Gadia, and PFL booters Dylan De Bruycker and Richard Talaroc of Davao Aguilas, and Ace Villanueva of Meralco Manila, Josh Grommen of Ceres Negros.
Maro is optimistic about the chances of the Philippines to start their campaign on a high note despite bowing to Cambodia, 1-0, in an AFC Under-22 tournament at its home field.
"Sa ngayon, well-prepared 'yung team. The team is strong, healthy, and excited to play the game. A year ago, we have been preparing but 'yung formal preparation, na-buo 'yung team June," said Maro.
The Malditas, meanwhile, are fresh from a landmark accomplishment this year when the team made it to the 2018 AFC Women's Cup. But the team is facing the prospects of playing with a shorthanded lineup as it will miss the services of Fil-foreign players Maeva Collatos, Isabela Mahoney, and Jesse Shugg due to injuries.
As of posting time, the managers' meeting is being held in Kuala Lumpur hoping that the Philippine squad will be given the greenlight to include replacements for the players.
"Ang sure is 15 pero we are hoping na 'yung replacement of players will be approved," said women's team coach Let Dimzon.
Dimzon expects a grueling campaign in the five-nation competition of the team who has Patrice Impelido as team captain.
"Mahirap kasi masayadong malakas ang Thailand at Vietnam. We are trying our best kaya we had a training camp in Japan. We played three games there. Hopefully, makuha namin 'yung objective namin," said Dimzon.