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Azkals tap Doctora, Villanueva for Tajikistan tiff

Balot will make a return to the Azkals squad three years since he made his international debut.
By Kevin Estrada

MANILA--A huge boost was given for the Philippines national football team, as Ace Villanueva and Ruben Doctora follow them to Dushanbe ahead of a vital Asian Cup Qualifier away at Tajikistan.

Coming from a 1-8 drubbing to China last Wednesday, the Azkals look to go 2-for-2 in group H when they face the Central Asians four days from now.

However, their arrivals come at a price, as they replace Jeffrey Christiaens and Hikaru Minegishi who incurred injuries during their friendly as the PFF updated its lineup on Thursday.

For the Meralco Manila Custodian, this will be his first ever call-up to the senior Azkals as he was the mainstay in the U22 side.

And as for Doctora, it will be a sweet reunion for the talismanic forward and gaffer Thomas Dooley that was three years in the making, in which the former debuted for the American in Malaysia in March 2014, and scored once against Nepal in Doha almost a month later.

He was in the squad for the AFC Challenge Cup when he tore almost half of his right knee ligaments that kept him out of the Peace Cup and the Suzuki Cup that year.

“It is a well deserved recall for him,” said his club mentor Ernest Nierras. “Iba si Balot. After 5 months of rehab after his surgery he went back to play,” he added about his striker who made a speedy recovery back in 2015.

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada