Seeking to improve on its past campaigns, the Philippines hopes to field a better-prepared Under-23 side for the Southeast Asian Games that will be hosted by Myanmar in December next year.
The Under-23 Azkals failed to end a 20-year wait for a return to the semifinals of the tournament two years ago in Jakarta, but notched an impressive win against Laos in the group stage—their first victory in the tournament since 2005.
Stressing the need for improvement not only from the senior side but also for teams in all age-groups, Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta yesterday said he and PFF national teams committee chair Dan Palami will be laying the groundwork for the program early to ensure that the squad will be at its best come December.
Araneta said the coaching staff for the SEA Games will be totally different from the national team.
National team coach Michael Weiss also mentored the Under-23 Azkals, who lost to Vietnam, Myanmar, Timor Leste and Brunei in the group stage two years ago.
“We have agreed to take the direction that the coaching staff for the SEA Games should be different from the national team,” said Araneta.
The core of what is seen as the squad for SEA Games team actually competed in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei early this year and also participated in the AFC Under-22 Championship Qualifying in Myanmar in June.
The Under-22 side had an all-Filipino coaching staff, headed by John Carmona. Among the players in that team that played for the senior side and reached the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup early this month were Marwin Angeles and Jeff Christiaens. Experienced campaigners Manny Ott and OJ Porteria are also expected to be part of the talent pool for the SEA Games.
Unlike two years ago when they only went to camp in Japan less than a month before the tournament, Araneta said the Under-23 Azkals will be given more exposure before they plunge into action in Myanmar.