The Philippines faces a tough task as it opens its campaign against Japan in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Championship 2018 Qualifiers on Wednesday at the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The men’s U-22 national football team tangles with the defending champion at 3:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. in Manila).
Besides powerhouse Japan, the Filipino booters are set to play against tournament host China and qualifier host Cambodia in Group J.
Head coach Marlon Maro called up 23 players to form the squad, which flew for Cambodia last Monday.
Leading the roster are Philippines Football League players Ace Villanueva, Julian Clariño and Daniel Gadia of FC Meralco Manila, Joshua Grommen of Ceres Negros FC, and Junell Bautista, James Cheng, Dylan de Bruycker, Rey de la Torre, Van Rey Diaz, Jordan Jarvis and Richard Talaroc of Davao Aguilas FC.
Also selected were college standouts Javier Gayoso and Raphael Rocha of Ateneo de Manila University, Jeremiah Borlongan and Christian Lapas of University of the Philippines, Michael Asong and Nimrod Balabat of San Beda College, Reymart Cubon and Joseph Joyel of Far Eastern University, Roberto Corsame of Arellano University, Yoshiharu Koizumi of De La Salle University and Patrick Valenzuela of National University.
Dimitri Lionel Limbo of Kaya FC-Makati B was also included in the team, which held regular trainings at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium and went to Japan last July 6-13 for a training camp in gearing up for the tournament.
The AFC U-23 Championship 2018 qualifying stage will serve as the team’s preparation for the 29th Southeast Asian Games which kicks off next month. JEREMIAH M. SEVILLA