‘Balanced group’ of PH booters out to upset fancied Iraqis
QUALIFYING WINDOW

‘Balanced group’ of PH booters out to upset fancied Iraqis

/ 05:15 AM March 13, 2024

The Philippine men’s football team fifa world cup

FILE–The Philippine men’s football team. –PFF WEBSITE

Coach Tom Saintfiet has assembled a squad he believes could give fancied Iraq a run for its money as he makes his debut as the man in charge of the Philippine men’s football team.

“We have a well balanced group,” Saintfiet said after the team formerly known as the Azkals announced its lineup for the upcoming window of the World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers this month.

Saintfiet has tapped veterans like Neil Etheridge, Amani Aguinaldo, Daisuke Sato, OJ Porteria, Mike Ott, Kevin Ingreso and Patrick Reichelt along with other familiar figures in Justin Baas, Jarvey Gayoso, Jeff Tabinas and Santi Rublico.

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READ: Tom Saintfiet to coach PH men’s football team

But the most noticeable inclusion for the two meetings with the Iraqis on March 21 in Basra and March 26 at Rizal Memorial Stadium are brothers Matthew and Michael Baldisimo, who will both don the Philippine shirt after representing Canada as youth players.

Matthew is known for being a current member of the San Jose Earthquakes in Major League Soccer while Michael is with York United of the Canadian Premier League.

Three players based locally also got to impress Saintfiet during a recent training camp at Rizal Memorial in JB Borlongan and former Southeast Asian Games U-22 striker Chima Uzoka of Philippines Football League side Dynamic Herb Cebu and Theo Libarnes, who recently led Far Eastern University-Diliman to the UAAP boys football crown.

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‘We have a good team’

Team manager Freddy Gonzalez (left) and PFF president John Gutierrez (right) welcome new men’s national team coach Tom Saintfiet. —PFF PHOTO

Team manager Freddy Gonzalez (left) and PFF president John Gutierrez (right) welcome new men’s national team coach Tom Saintfiet. —PFF PHOTO

“We have a good team to face Iraq, but we need to play professional and try to steal some points,” Saintfiet said. “We have a balanced team to face a strong opponent. We have both experience and young [blood] in the mix.

“It’s important we look at players who can do the job and who we think could be ready for this task in every position,” the Belgian coach added.

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READ: Azkals moniker goes the way of Malditas–with no replacement just yet

Rounding out the team are Patrick Deyto, Kevin Hansen, Cholo Bugas, Marco Casambre, Jesse Curran, Simen Lyngbo, Jesper Nyholm, Christian Rontini, Paul Tabinas, Oskari Kekkonen, Mark Swainston and Andres Aldeguer.

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This window will be the first since new management of the men’s team tapped Saintfiet as a replacement to Michael Weiss.

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