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U23 Azkals grouped into 'very competitive' bunch in AFC qualifiers

The U23 Azkals, to be made up by the ADT core, have been drawn together with South Korea, Singapore, and Timor Leste in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers. PFL (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Philippine Football Federation secretary general Ed Gastanes sees Group H of the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers as an interesting group.

The U23 Azkals, to be mainly composed by the core of the Azkals Development Team, will be joined by South Korea, Singapore, and Timor Leste in Group H.

“The draw saw the Philippines in a very competitive group with our fellow ASEAN neighbors and the defending champions,” Gastanes said on Saturday.

"Singapore and Timor-Leste are two Southeast Asian sides that we’ve seen before at different levels, while Korea are the defending champions and are a very strong team," added Azkals coach Scott Cooper.

The Group H bubble will take place from Oct. 23-31 in Singapore.

The team that will top the group will qualify for the AFC U23 Asian Cup from June 1-19, 2022 in Uzbekistan.

The second placer could qualify too if it is among the four best runners-up.

“This is a good gauge for the team which will form part of the core of the senior team in the future,” PFF president Nonong Araneta said.

Meanwhile, Cooper looks to show to everyone that the U23 Azkals can exceed expectations.

During the group draw on Friday at the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, the U23 Azkals were placed in the last of four pots while Timor Leste, which the U23 Azkals manhandled during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in BiƱan, was in Pot 3.

"We hope that our performance in the qualifiers will not be equivalent to our current seeding and that we can lift up our seeding for the future tournaments by having a far more respectable performance and better results as compared to what has been achieved in the past," Cooper said. "Hopefully we can strengthen our results together on the U23 level that we have never seen before just like in the senior team."

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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