February 28, 2024

Neil Etheridge leads Azkals’ stacked 26-man roster for FIFA World Cup qualifiers

Neil Etheridge leads Azkals’ stacked 26-man roster for FIFA World Cup qualifiers

The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) has unveiled the 26-player lineup that will represent the country in the initial two games of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 Preliminary Joint Qualifiers Round 2.

The lineup for the upcoming matches is packed with a diverse and talented group of players.

Leading the team is the experienced goalkeeper and captain, Neil Etheridge, whose exceptional skills have been a cornerstone of the squad.

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The defensive line is bolstered by the likes of Patrick Deyto, Simone Rota, and Carli de Murga, providing a solid foundation for the team.

In the midfield, players like Jesse Thomas Curran, Daisuke Sato, and Santiago Rublico bring their playmaking abilities to the forefront.

Adding to the depth of the national team’s midfield options are Oskari Kekkonen, Kevin Ingreso, and Justin Baas.

Stephan Shrock, who coaches the Azkals Development Team, has also been included in the roster.

The forward line, meanwhile, boasts dynamic talents, including Dennis Villanueva, Simen Lyngbo, and Pocholo Bugas, while veterans like Jose Elmer Porteria and Mike Rigoberto Ott provide a wealth of experience.

With Patrick Reichelt and Bienvenido Marañon leading the offensive charge, the team is well-equipped to find the back of the net.

Aside from those two, Audie Menzi, Marwin Angeles, Kenshiro Daniels, and Jesus Joaquin Melliza are also set to offer their versatility and depth to the roster.

Azkals coach Michael Weiss explained that he made his selections based on player availability and their performance in the last five FIFA International Friendly matches against Nepal, Chinese Taipei, Afghanistan, and Bahrain, which took place from June to October 2023.

“It’s a good mixture of experienced mainstays for a long time and young well-developing talents brought on by the recent performances of Philippine clubs in AFC competitions,” Weiss said in an article posted by the PFF. “It gives us reason to be optimistic for our first World Cup qualifier matches against Vietnam and Indonesia.”

With two Southeast Asian rivals set to compete in these matches, Weiss is optimistic that the enthusiastic home support will play a crucial role in helping his team achieve significant results.

The PFF has also recently initiated the #StandYourGround #10KStrong campaign to encourage support for the Azkals in the initial two matches of the World Cup Qualifiers.

“A very important factor is the enthusiasm and support of the 12th man,” said Weiss. “We hope the fans come in numbers to the stadium, and be part of history.”

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The Azkals’ are set to face Vietnam on November 16 followed by Indonesia on November 21 at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila.