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PFF fields young guns, old hands

The Philippine Football Federation will be deploying a solid team featuring a mixture of veteran stars and developing talents in the FIFA World Cup 2026/AFC Asian Cup 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualifiers next week at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

Azkals head coach Michael Weiss said he based the formation of the 26-man roster on the availability of players as well as their performance in the last FIFA international friendly matches against Nepal, Chinese Taipei, Afghanistan, and Bahrain from June to October.

Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge of Birmingham City will be at the helm together with veterans Manny Ott of Kedah Darul Aman, Patrick Reichelt of Kuala Lumpur FC, Mike Ott of Barito Putera, Kenshiro Daniels of RANS Nusantara, OJ Porteria of Kelantan United, and Daisuke Sato of Persib Bandung.

They will be backed by seasoned stars like Stephan Schrock and Bienvenido Marañon as well as Kevin Ray Hansen, Patrick Deyto, Simone Rota, Carlos Martinez de Murga, Jefferson Tabinas, Christian Rontini, Jesse Curran, Santiago Rublico, Dennis Villanueva, Simen Lyngbo and Pocholo Bugas.

Rounding out the pool are Oskari Kekkonen, Kevin Ingreso, Justin Baas, Audie Menzi, Marwin Angeles and Joaquin Melliza.

“It’s a good mixture of experienced mainstays for a long time and young well-developing talents brought on by the recent performances of Philippine clubs in AFC competitions,” said Weiss, whose wards will be facing Vietnam on 16 November and Indonesia on 21 November.

“It gives us reason to be optimistic for our first World Cup qualifier matches against Vietnam and Indonesia.”

Although there were some notable absences, Weiss remains confident.

“We focus on the ones who are with us for the qualifiers,” he added.

With two Southeast Asian rivals arriving for the two matches, Weiss hopes that the home support will help propel his squad to important results.

In fact, the federation launched the campaign #StandYourGround #10KStrong to encourage fans to rally behind the squad in its first two matches of the qualifiers.

“A very important factor is the enthusiasm and support of the 12th man,” Weiss said.

“We hope the fans come in numbers to the stadium and be part of history.”

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