The Philippine Azkals under-22 team will face three-time league champion Ceres Negros FC as it competes in the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara in preparation for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games Games.
The Azkals U-22 squad was put in Group A together with Philippines Football League (PFL) king Ceres Negros, Green Archers United FC and Mendiola FC following the official draw on Sunday at the Philippine Football Federation headquarters in Pasig City.
Defending Copa Paulino Alcantara titlist Kaya FC Iloilo was drawn in Group B along with Stallion Laguna FC and Philippine Air Force FC.
Team manager Dan Palami sees this cup competition as a fitting test for the young Azkals.
“This will give us the best exposure. We’re thinking of going to camps abroad but since the SEA Games will be held here, playing against PFL teams will be a good test for the boys,” said Palami.
“The objective of course is a podium finish in the SEA Games. We hope this experience in Copa will be a factor in achieving that,” added the longtime Azkals chief backer.
Palami said that they will call up a maximum of 25 players for the Copa Paulino Alcantara, from which the 20-man lineup for the SEA Games will be formed.
Palami said that young overseas-based standouts Justin Baas, Yrick Galantes and Edison Suerti, who suited up in the Azkals’ impressive goalless draw with China last week, will reinforce the U22 team.
“We’re doing all we can to make sure that we’ll have a good finish in the SEA Games,” said Palami.
The Azkals U22 will start their Copa campaign against Green Archers United on October 27 before taking on Ceres on October 30 and Mendiola on November 6.