Debutantes boost Azkals chances in AFF Suzuki Cup

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Can the FIlipinos make their mark in the AFF Suzuki Cup this time around?


BY   BOB GUERRERO     GOAL PHILIPPINES CORRESPONDENT    

This year's Philippine team in the AFF Suzuki Cup has no shortage of familiar faces. The Younghusband brothers, Manny Ott, Stephan Schrock, and Amani Aguinaldo are all returning after participating in the 2016 edition. 

But there are several new cogs for the Filipinos that look to make their mark on the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time.

All of these players are in the pool of 29, but the team has yet to whittle the roster to 23 players. It is not yet known which of these players will make the cut.

Javier Patiño – The Filipino-Spaniard missed out on the last AFF championship because he was with Chinese club Henan Jianye and they refused to let him play for the Philippines outside of the FIFA windows.

This time the Suzuki Cup will partly be played in a window, so Buriram United must allow striker to suit up for the Azkals for at least their first two matches against Singapore and Timore Leste. It is not clear if his contract will let him play in the other games.

Patiño has 6 goals in 13 caps for the Philippines, and at age 30 is still in the prime of his career. As a young professional he played in the Spanish second tier for Cordoba. Since then he has scored 39 goals for the Thunder Castles in two stints with the Thai powerhouse.

In Patiño the Philippines have an out-and-out goal poacher who can find the back of the net in every way possible. If he can be allowed to play for the entire tournament, Patiño will be key to the Philippines' championship aspirations.

Michael Falkesgaard (in orange)

Michael Falkesgaard – The Filipino-Danish goalkeeper is looking to add to his two caps for the Philippines in this Suzuki Cup.

Earlier in his career Falkesgaard was on the books of Danish giants Brondby but was sparingly used. He now starts for Bangkok United in the Thai League, where his Philippine passport is highly prized, since there is an ASEAN player rule there.

The towering shot-stopper impressed in the recent 1-1 friendly draw for the Philippines against Oman, coming on at half time and making some big saves.

The 27-year old will likely sit on the bench for the first two games with Neil Etheridge around but he could play a key role after that should Philippines coach Sven Goran Eriksson favor him over Pat Deyto, the Philippines number one in 2014.

Alvaro Silva – The 34-year old Fil-Spanish central defender is the oldest Suzuki Cup debutante here. He has been on the Philippines' radar for a long time now but only sorted out his eligibility recently.

Silva has played for Malaga and Cadiz in Spain but has more recently plied his trade in Southeast Asia. After a year playing for Hanoi FC in Vietnam he is now employed by Malaysian club Kedah.

The Philippines will have the benefit of an experienced, tall and extremely physical centre-back who will likely partner Carlie De Murga in front of the goalkeeper.

Stephan Palla (left)

Stephan Palla – The 29-year old native of Mauerbach, Austria is, like Patiño, on the payroll of Buriram United, having just signed with them.

The wide defender played in the Austrian youth national sides up until the U19s before switching allegiance to the Philippines at senior level.

Injuries have limited his caps to 9, but he might be a capable back up for Daisuke Sato at left back.

John-Patrick Strauß – Only 22, the holding midfielder plays for Erzebirge Aue in the German second tier. Strauß is a workhorse in the midfield who is capable of disrupting an opponent's rhythm while also staying composed on the ball. He earned his first cap for the Philippines against Oman earlier this year, coming on as a substitute.

It appears Strauß is available for the entire tournament, and could help create a dream midfield with Manny Ott and Stephan Schrock.

Jarvey Gayoso – The Philippines born-and bred striker is one of the finest players the country has produced in a long time.

Gayoso, 21, is still studying in Ateneo de Manila University, where he stars for their football team in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, the top collegiate league in the country.

He led Ateneo to a UAAP title two years ago, and has speed, height, and a lethal left foot.

Gayoso scored once and also gave an assist for the Philippines in the 2017 SEA Games. Earlier this year he notched his maiden senior international goal, heading in a Hikaru Minegishi cross versus Laos in Bangladesh during the Bangabandhu Cup.

The striker has excellent pedigree. His grandfather, Ed Ocampo made national team both in basketball and football. His uncle Alvin Ocampo played for the Philippines in the old Tiger Cup. His father, Jayvee was a professional basketball player.

Jovin Bedic – The Kaya Iloilo attacking mid is from Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, the fabled footballing hotbed in the Philippines that produced Chieffy Caligdong and Ian Araneta.

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The 28-year old is coming off a stellar season for Iloilo, who won the Philippines Football League Cup with his dramatic 119th minute game winner in the final against Davao Aguilas Bellmare.

Bedic is creative and can score with either foot, but he could have difficulty finding playing time in a stacked lineup.

Adam Tull – Also known as Adam Reed, Tull is a Filipino-British holding midfielder for Davao. Tull is a product of the Sunderland youth system. In his itinerant career he has played for Bradford, Leyton Orient, and Burton Albion among others. Tull is 27 years old and got his first caps for the Philippines last year in a pocket tournament in Taiwan.

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