Young Azkals Sabio, Angeles shine in Middle East training camp
DUBAI—They may be playing on borrowed time, but defender Jason Sabio and young midfielder Marwin Angeles are certainly making a strong case for a starting spot in the AFC Challenge Cup in the Philippine Azkals’ Middle East training camp here.
With the Azkals missing key players either because of injuries or club commitments, Sabio, the US-raised defender, and Angeles, who learned the game in Venice, Italy, are seizing their chance with a string of solid performances, particularly against Qatar club Al Ahli in Doha.
Injuries to captain Aly Borromeo and veteran Rob Gier have opened the opportunity for Sabio, whose defensive tenacity has complemented the subdued and composed Juan Guirado at the Azkals backline.
Gier, one of the more experienced players in the side, has echoed coach Michael Weiss’ observation on Sabio’s improvement.
“He’s obviously been working hard and getting more confident,” Gier said of the rock-solid Kaya defender, who struggled in his first start against Mongolia last year in the AFC Challenge Cup in Ulan Bator.
The 21-year-old Angeles proved his goal against Korean side Icheon Citizen was no fluke, showing composure and field vision belying his youth.
“He keeps it simple, makes smart decisions when he has the ball,” said James Younghusband, who was a recipient of Angeles’ incisive passing against the Qatari side.
“Marwin has been excellent in this camp,” Gier added.
Angeles has earned Weiss’ nod to be part of the Challenge Cup squad, which could mean him missing the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei which runs conflict with the Challenge Cup.
Though he would welcome the opportunity of seeing action in the Challenge Cup, the soft-spoken midfielder understands that he could easily be dislodged in the lineup if veterans like Paul Mulders and Stephan Schrock are available for the March 9-13 tournament.
“I’m just happy I’m getting my chance now,” said Angeles. Gier said the development of Angeles and Sabio augurs well for the national side.
“These are perfect opportunities stake a claim in the side and also means no position in the team is safe,” said Gier. “It’s good competition and it’s good to see young players emerge.”