The Philippine Under-23 national football team will be playing back-to-back tune-up matches against its Bahraini counterparts at the Khalifa Stadium on March 24 and 26.
The friendlies are part of the team’s preparations for the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this August.
After holding a series of local friendly matches in the country against domestic top-tier clubs, the young Azkals test their mettle against the teams from the Central Asian nation.
“We have a competitive squad in the U23 team whose players came from various clubs and schools. A vital step in the team’s development is to play more international matches,” Philippine Football Federation (PFF) General Secretary Edwin Gastanes said in a statement.
“It is necessary that they play together as much as possible so they can be familiar with each other and have cohesion,” he added.
The PH XI was held to a goalless stalemate by the visiting Malaysia U23 in Manila last December in its first international friendly.
Meanwhile, the PFF has released the roster of players who will be part of the training camp in Bahrain.
Young local stars Kou Ichi Belgira of JP Voltes FC, Kaya FC-Makati’s Patrick Franksson and Ceres Negros FC central defender Joshua Grommen will lead the young Azkals in the two friendlies.
Also in the squad are Michael Asong, Nimrod Balabat, Jay-R Bucayan, Jimson Crestal, Franco dela Torre and James Pangasian of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football champion San Beda College.
Joining them are University of the Philippines trio Daniel Gadia, Ace Villanueva and Julian Clarino, College of Saint Benilde standouts Earl Laguerta and Ian Milay and Arellano University top scorer Roberto Corsame Jr.
Benguet State University’s Junell Baustista, Kaya FC reserves’ Ronilo Bayan Jr., former Global FC midfielder Andreas Esswein, Davao Aguilas FC’s Van Rey Diaz and Dylan De Bruycker complete the line-up.
Long-time CSB Blazers football head coach and PFF official Marlon Maro will be at the helm of the Philippine contingent.